Opening a new chapter in China-Australia ties
By Hannan R. Hussain  ·  2023-11-14  ·   Source: China.org.cn

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has concluded his landmark visit to China. Arriving at an important juncture in the two countries' relationship, Albanese's four-day trip provided valuable insights into improving bilateral ties and deepening constructive engagement on a host of levels.

The two sides reaffirmed their support for the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and reiterated the importance of a stable, constructive bilateral relationship. Moreover, their joint outcome statement spells the resumption of the Annual Leaders' Meeting, the facilitation of trade and economic links, and the welcoming of new frontiers in the China-Australia High-Level Dialogue.

This is Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's maiden visit to China, effectively becoming the first Australian leader to visit the country since 2016. The trip is notable for its significant contribution to dialing up strategic mutual trust and advancing trade-focused engagements through high-level delegations. Above all, it is a telling reminder that the decades-old China-Australia relationship is headed towards "the right path of improving relations."

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the visit by Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. In support of that historic symbolism, both sides continue to construe high-level communication as an anchor for deepening political trust. In Albanese's own telling, both Canberra and Beijing have reaped the advantages of regional development and stability and stand to benefit from a relationship that is informed by sustained "dialogue and cooperation." That pragmatism was on ample display at the 6th China International Import Expo (CIIE), where over 200 Australian companies strengthened the case for greater complementarity between the time-tested commercial partners.

As comprehensive strategic partners, it is in the interests of both sides to work toward implementing the high-level consensus between their top leadership. Albanese's visit indicated new growth points in emerging areas spanning free trade, climate action, and a robust green economy. Central to that upward cooperation trajectory is mutual regard for each other's core interests and a desire to commit to the essence of their diplomatic relations as established decades ago.

It is difficult to overstate Australia and China's joint commitment to regional multilateralism and free trade. Albanese's visit didn't carry any echoes of zero-sum decoupling, de-risking, or severing of industrial supply chains. This is important because China's own commitment to opening up has brought unprecedented opportunities to Australia and the broader region, headlined by their shared engagements under the framework of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and giving "full play" to the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Strategic autonomy can play a major role in consolidating mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Australia hereon. Albanese's leadership has been increasingly receptive to building a relationship with China that caters to the interests of bilateral growth and meets China halfway on principles of equality. It is here that both sides are ideally positioned to support a productive and meaningful business environment to undergird investment and the operation of companies. The invitation of Chinese leaders to visit Australia is proof of the two sides having cemented their high-level understandings as agreed in Bali last year, approving key elements of that consensus. The resumption of annual meetings between them only scores that wide-ranging, revitalized symbolism home.

"Dialogue is always a good thing," said Albanese towards the successful conclusion of his visit. "And when China represents more than one in four of our export dollars and more than one in four of Australian jobs depends upon our exports, this is an important relationship."

Hannan R. Hussain is a foreign affairs commentator, author and recipient of the Fulbright Award.

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