source： editor：zhang wenni
a kangaroo stands between the national flags of china and australia. [photo/ic]
australian prime minister anthony albanese will visit china from nov 4 to 7, which will provide the two sides with a good opportunity to put bilateral relations back on track.
china and australia established diplomatic relations in 1972 and the next year, then australian prime minister gough whitlam paid an official visit to china, adding a new chapter to sino-australian relations. whitlam had visited china in 1971, too, but as australian labor party leader.
albanese announced his visit in late october, around the 50th anniversary of whitlam's official visit to the country. he is the first australian prime minister to visit china since 2016.
the australian labor party, now led by albanese, has adopted an independent, rational and pragmatic foreign policy, with albanese acknowledging that whitlam's historic visit benefited both countries. welcoming australian products' return to the chinese market, he said strong trade will benefit both countries.
albanese may have learned a lesson from the history of sino-australian relations, but since 2015, successive australian governments have overlooked the mutual benefits that cooperation in multiple fields produce, baselessly accusing china of "interfering" in australian domestic politics and "stealing australian technology", which disrupted the exchanges and cooperation between the two sides.
from 2018 till albanese was elected prime minister in 2022, australia had been acting as a pawn in the united states' geopolitical chessboard, challenging china's national interests, and interfering in china's internal affairs. australia's attempts to smear china undermined bilateral relations and forced the suspension of cooperation projects.
what really deteriorated bilateral relations are the statements and actions of some australian politicians and elites, who are biased against china and see china's rapid development as a security threat to australia, as well as the united states' political maneuverings to pull australia into its anti-china camp, taking advantage of canberra's dependence on washington for security.
yet despite the deteriorating bilateral relations, neither side could ignore the complementarity in their industrial structure and the opportunities that the vast chinese market offers. china is australia's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade in 2022 reaching $287 billion, which accounted for 28 percent of australia's total foreign trade. plus, china imported 65 percent of the 1.1 billion tons of iron ore it needed last year from australia.
in fact, a stable relationship between australia and china is in the interests of both countries, and trade between australia and china, as well as strong community, cultural and business links, has delivered significant benefits to both countries.
during the g20 summit in bali, indonesia, in 2022, china and australia held their first high-level meeting since the covid-19 pandemic broke out, which opened a diplomatic window to reset bilateral relations. since then, canberra has been trying to adjust its china policy, and taken relatively rational and flexible measures to normalize economic, trade and people-to-people exchanges.
of late, china and australia, have engaged in friendly talks under the world trade organization to settle disputes, and reach consensuses on certain issues.
since china and australia are important trade partners of each other, they should jointly address regional and global issues, engage in win-win cooperation, and promote the development of trade.
as long as australia's foreign policy, especially its "china policy", is rational, bilateral relations will grow. canberra has to realize that its cooperation with china will benefit the australian people. but if canberra blindly follows washington and indulges in "value diplomacy" and hype up the "china threat" theory, the resulting confrontation will harm australia's interests.
looking ahead, the foundation of sino-australian relations is strong. as a result, the two sides can be expected to join hands to tackle non-traditional security challenges such as climate change, cybersecurity, terrorism, and foundering economic recovery.
china has been making efforts to promote regional and global development, from which both sides can benefit. in this context, sino-australian cooperation in trade can be leveraged to find new ways to promote common development.
however, despite albanese's visit being an ice-breaking move, it's the follow-up actions by the two sides that will determine the ultimate results. in other words, china-australia ties have remained frozen for a while, so it will take more than one visit to put bilateral relations back on track. australia has for long been sitting on the fence between china and the us and hence cannot be expected to suddenly make a u-turn on its stance.
but we can hope that albanese will take tangible actions to improve bilateral ties and work together to achieve common development.
the author is the executive deputy director of the center for australian studies, china university of mining and technology. the views don't necessarily represent those of discover shaanxi.