Paul Keating opens up on ‘pleasant and engaging event’ with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi

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Katina Curtis
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Former PM Paul Keating with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Chinese Consulate in Sydney.
Former PM Paul Keating with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Chinese Consulate in Sydney. Credit: Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi encouraged Australia’s continuing integration into East Asia during a meeting with former prime minister Paul Keating.

The pair met for just over an hour in Sydney on Thursday, a day after Mr Wang held lengthy talks with Foreign Minister Penny Wong and met Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and shadow minister Simon Birmingham.

Mr Keating reported afterwards it was “a very pleasant and engaging event” that mainly entailed a big-picture discussion of “the geostrategic balances and influences in the world” as well as Australia-China relations over the past 70 years.

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Over the past year, Mr Keating has been an outspoken critic of the Government’s approach towards China and geostrategic issues.

That included a statement he issued a fortnight ago, while Mr Albanese was hosting southeast Asian leaders in Melbourne, that accused Senator Wong of seeking to “rattle the China can”.

His statement after the meeting with Mr Wang was much more conciliatory.

“The foreign minister was very positive about putting bilateral difficulties behind us as he was encouraged by the government’s efforts in restoring appropriate equilibrium between our two countries,” Mr Keating said.

“He was pleased he was also able to speak with the Prime Minister on the visit as he was the Opposition Leader, following what he described as a productive meeting with the Foreign Minister.

“He both encouraged and welcomed Australia’s continuing integration with East Asia where he believed Australia’s future lies.”

Senator Birmingham said on Wednesday it had been “somewhat insulting towards Penny Wong and the Albanese Government” for the Chinese minister to seek out the meeting with the former prime minister.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian, asked about this assessment, said the most fundamental aspect of the relationship was a commitment to mutual respect.

“Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed in the dialogue that the ups and downs of China-Australia relations over the past decade have left us with lessons that we need to draw on and experience that we need to hold dear,” Mr Lin said.

“The two sides need to build on the good momentum that the bilateral relations have so far maintained, and act more actively to build a more mature, steady, and fruitful comprehensive strategic partnership.”

Senator Wong characterised the formal talks on Wednesday as frank, saying Australia sought a stable, productive and mature relationship with China.

Both foreign ministers acknowledged differences would always exist between the two countries but it should be possible to rise above them.

However, Mr Wang also offered a veiled warning about letting other influences such as the US “disrupt” Australia’s thinking, saying the relationship should not be allowed to veer off course or go backwards.

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