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China's Xi hosts Australian PM for first time in 7 years

Albanese is on a three-day visit to China

Albanese is on a three-day visit to China

Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday met with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Beijing, Chinese state media reported, as the two signal a push toward improving ties between their countries.

The largely symbolic trip comes close to the 50th anniversary of the first trip by an Australian prime minister to the People's Republic of China.

Albanese on Monday stopped by the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, following in the footsteps of the first Australian leader, Gough Whitlam, who visited China five decades ago as ties between the two countries were being established.

"Since he visited the Temple of Heaven in Beijing much has changed. But what is constant is that engagement between our two countries remains important," Albanese said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

What is on the agenda?

With Beijing being Canberra's biggest trading partner, the focus of Albanese's visit is on trade discussions. This includes easing barriers that have impacted Australian exports by billions of dollars and seeking consensus on how to settle future trade disputes.

On Sunday, Albanese said he was bringing a message of "constructive economic engagement" to the table.

Albanese also said he intended to address human rights concerns, focusing on the detention of Australian nationals in China.

Beijing's Foreign Ministry said bilateral issues on international and regional issues would be addressed at the meeting between Albanese and Xi.

What is the significance of Albanese's trip to China?

China and Australia's relations have seen rising tensions since 2017, with Canberra suspecting Chinese intervention in Australian politics.

The Australian government later barred Chinese tech giant Huawei from 5G contracts. Australia had also called for an inquest into the origins of the coronavirus, angering China.

Beijing then imposed punitive tariffs on a slew of Australian commodities, and tensions continued to escalate over the detention of Australian nationals in China.

Another stumbling block in Australian-Chinese relations is Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea, as Canberra backs a UN ruling rejecting China's claims.

But since Albanese took power in May 2022, China reversed course. Beijing lifted most of its restrictions that are estimated to have cost Australian exporters up to 20 billion Australian dollars ($13 billion, €12.1 billion) a year for goods such as coal, wine, beef, barley and lobsters.

fb/rs (AFP, AP, Reuters)