China thaw call: more pos­i­tive en­ergy please


China has called for the re­la­tion­ship with Aus­tralia to have “more pos­i­tive en­ergy and less neg­a­tive en­ergy” af­ter the first visit by an Aus­tralian for­eign min­is­ter to the Asian na­tion in al­most three years.

In a meet­ing that sig­nalled a ma­jor thaw­ing of diplo­matic ten­sions and paved the way for a visit to China by Scott Mor­ri­son, Aus­tralia and China agreed to work to­gether in po­ten­tial tri-lat­eral ar­range­ments with South Pa­cific is­land na­tions

The high-level, two-hour meet­ing in Bei­jing last night be­tween For­eign Min­is­ter Marise Payne and her Chi­nese coun­ter­part, Wang Yi, was held a day af­ter the Mor­ri­son govern­ment an­nounced its in­ten­tion to block on na­tional se­cu­rity grounds a bid by a Hong Kong-based com­pany for Aus­tralian crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture gas pipe­line com­pany APA.

Af­ter the meet­ing, Se­na­tor Payne said Aus­tralia and China would “walk to­gether with the ap­proach of mu­tual re­spect.”

Mr Wang said the Chi­naAus­tralia re­la­tion­ship had had its “ups and downs” in re­cent times, but the two sides had agreed to work to­gether for a more sus­tain­able re­la­tion­ship.

Se­na­tor Payne said the two sides had “full and can­did dis­cus­sions” in­clud­ing the sen­si­tive is­sue of China’s vo­ca­tional

re-ed­u­ca­tion camps of Uighur Mus­lims in the west­ern re­gion of Xin­jiang.

In a news con­fer­ence at the Chi­nese state govern­ment guest­house af­ter the meet­ing, the for­eign min­is­ters both is­sued lengthy state­ments of de­ter­mi­na­tion to act with more good­will to im­prove re­la­tions, although they did not an­nounce any ma­jor new deals.

Se­na­tor Payne in­di­cated that yes­ter­day’s meet­ing could pave the way for a visit to China in the next few months by Scott Mor­ri­son. “Prime Min­is­ter Mor­ri­son … wants to work to­gether to deepen our com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ner­ship (with China) and to build the per­sonal re­la­tion­ships that un­der­pin an ef­fec­tive com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ner­ship,” she said. “The per­sonal re­la­tion­ships we can grow from strate­gic di­a­logue meet­ings like this and from bi­lat­eral an­nual lead­ers’ meet­ings. We look for­ward to do­ing that in the com­ing weeks and months.”

The last visit to China by an Aus­tralian prime min­is­ter was when Mal­colm Turn­bull went to the G20 meet­ing in Hangzhou in Septem­ber 2016. The last Aus­tralian for­eign min­is­ter to visit China was Julie Bishop in Fe­bru­ary the same year. China’s Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang vis­ited Aus­tralia in March last year.

Mr Wang said the meet­ing with Se­na­tor Payne had taken place af­ter the new govern­ment of Aus­tralia, un­der Mr Mor­ri­son, had recog­nised that China’s devel­op­ment was “an op­por­tu­nity rather than a threat”.

He said work­ing to­gether in the Pa­cific is­lands could be a new area of po­ten­tial co-op­er­a­tion be­tween Aus­tralia and China.

How­ever, he said the China-Aus­tralia re­la­tion­ship needed to have “more pos­i­tive en­ergy and less neg­a­tive en­ergy”.

While the two sides did not spell out any de­tails of po­ten­tial co-op­er­a­tion in the South Pa­cific, Mr Wang said is­land na­tions were in­ter­ested in work­ing with both Aus­tralia and China.

The South Pa­cific Is­lands were in­de­pen­dent “sov­er­eign coun­tries with their own for­eign poli­cies”, he said, and he and Se­na­tor Payne had agreed that Aus­tralia and China were “not com­peti­tors but co-op­er­a­tion part­ners” in the South Pa­cific.

Se­na­tor Payne said the op­por­tu­ni­ties for China and Aus­tralia to co-op­er­ate in Pa­cific is­land na­tions could in­clude work­ing with China’s newly es­tab­lished In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment agency.

She met the head of the agency, Wang Xiao­tao, yes­ter­day. The agency was set up this year to over­see Chi­nese in­ter­na­tional aid pro­grams, in­clud­ing its Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

“We think there are some pow­er­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties for us to share skills and ex­pe­ri­ence (in the Pa­cific Is­lands),” Se­na­tor Payne said. Ar­eas where China and Aus­tralia could work to­gether in the Pa­cific is­lands “could in­clude health projects”.

She said Aus­tralia wel­comed Chi­nese in­vest­ment in Aus­tralia but ex­plained that the pre­lim­i­nary de­ci­sion to block the takeover of pipe­line group APA by Hong Kong’s CKI group was based on con­cern that too many crit­i­cal as­sets such as en­ergy and gas pipe­lines should not be held by any one for­eign com­pany.

Mr Wang said China wel­comed the reaf­fir­ma­tion that Chi­nese in­vest­ment was wel­come in Aus­tralia, and that view would not be af­fected by a sin­gle de­ci­sion.


Marise Payne and Chi­nese coun­ter­part Wang Yi yes­ter­day


For­eign Min­is­ter Marise Payne with her Chi­nese coun­ter­part, Wang Yi, at the Diaoyu­tai State Guest­house in Bei­jing yes­ter­day

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