Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s message to China’s second-in-charge Li Qiang: We both want peace

Dan Jervis-Bardy
The Nightly
Mr Albanese will use remarks to a State Lunch for Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Parliament House in Canberra to declare Australia and China must always engage as “mature nations” - even during disagreements.
Mr Albanese will use remarks to a State Lunch for Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Parliament House in Canberra to declare Australia and China must always engage as “mature nations” - even during disagreements. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will tell China’s second-most powerful politician that both countries have an interest in “protecting a stable order” in the Asia-Pacific amid rising tensions in the region.

Mr Albanese will use remarks to a State Lunch for Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Parliament House in Canberra to declare Australia and China must always engage as “mature nations” - even during disagreements.

Mr Li will hold talks with Mr Albanese on Monday before travelling to Perth for the final leg of his Australian tour.

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The four-day visit – the first from a Chinese premier in seven years – arrives at a delicate moment in the relationship between Australia and its biggest trading partner.

China’s push to expand its influence in the Pacific, several recent military incidents and the plight of jailed Australian writer Yang Hengjun are all sources of tension for the Federal Government.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Mr Albanese argued dialogue was key to unlocking the benefits in areas of mutual interest, including business, trade, education and climate. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Sunday said the Pacific was now in a “state of permanent contest”, as China seeks to cosy up to countries who have long considered Australia their partner of choice.

In remarks to a rare State Lunch in Parliament House’s Great Hall, Mr Albanese will emphasise the importance of dialogue in preserving peace in the region.

“When I saw you (Mr Li) and President Xi in Beijing, I spoke about stabilising the relationship”, Mr Albanese will say, according to draft remarks supplied to The West Australian.

“It is a relationship in which we must always be ready to engage with each other as mature nations.

“There is much that remains to be done, but it is clear that our nations are making progress in stabilising and rebuilding that crucial dialogue.

We won’t always agree – and the points on which we disagree won’t simply disappear if we leave them in silence.

“We share an interest in protecting a stable order in our region.

Mr Albanese argued dialogue was key to unlocking the benefits in areas of mutual interest, including business, trade, education and climate.

Mr Li will receive a ceremonial welcome outside Parliament’s forecourt ahead of the lunch, where roughly 300 guests will dine on Australian beef, local produce and wines.

The Chinese premier and Mr Dutton are also expected to deliver remarks at the lunch.

The last of China’s major trade sanctions imposed during the diplomatic deep freeze – a ban on live lobster imports – is set to be lifted with Trade Minister Don Farrell “very confident” it would happen soon.

However, it is unclear if the ban will be lifted during Mr Li’s visit.

Mr Li on Sunday pledged two new giant pandas for Adelaide Zoo to replace long-time residents Wang Wang and Fu Ni, who are returning home.

Speaking through a translator, Mr Li said the giant pandas were symbols of the “profound friendship” of the two nations.

“This story tells us that so long as both sides are committed to taking good care of China-Australia cooperative relations, they can transcend the vast distance of the Pacific Ocean and any differences between us to deliver common progress and win-win outcomes,” he said.

Mr Li’s program will wrap up in Perth on Tuesday where he and Mr Albanese sit down with business heavyweights from both countries at a forum organised by the Business Council of Australia.

He will also hold talks with WA Premier Roger Cook and is expected to tour a lithium refinery at Kwinana and one of Fortescue’s facilities.

Speaking on Sunday ahead of the talks, Mr Cook said Mr Li’s decision to visit WA over Victoria or NSW showed that he understood the State was a “powerhouse of Australia’s economy”.

The Premier is planning to discuss the prospect of more direct flights between Perth and China during the meeting.

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