Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s visit to Beijing ignites hopes for warmer ties: Analysts

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s visit to Beijing ignites hopes for warmer ties: Analysts


Since Australia’s Labor Party took power in May, it has been seeking to repair ties with China.

Compared with the previous government led by the Liberal Party, the current administration has “toned down on the rhetoric and improved the atmosphere for relations”, Prof Thayer told CNA’s Asia First.

“(Ms Wong’s visit is) another mark of how this relatively new Labour government has put an emphasis on diplomacy, in terms of managing its relationship with China,” Prof Curran said.

“It’s limited how much they can move, but unlike the previous government, they have stopped shouting at China. Of course, China’s wolf warrior diplomacy has also eased off significantly as well, so there’s movement on both sides,” he added.

When asked how Australia’s allies will perceive the warming ties, given the current climate of tension between the West and China, Prof Thayer replied: “They will endorse it completely, even the Biden administration.”

He said that both Australia’s government and US President Joe Biden are keen to forge cooperation with China on a number of issues that Beijing is seen to be influential on.

These include the COVID-19 pandemic and other diseases, climate change, denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula, and pressuring Russia to end the war in Ukraine.

“These are areas any dialogue with China is seen as a move forward. Australia can now join the party and attempt to add that influence in these bilateral dialogues,” said Prof Thayer.

“So our allies, in my opinion, will applaud this because dialogue is essential,” he added.


Prof Thayer said he hopes Ms Wong’s trip to Bejing, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, will kick start more of such meetings.

There are “great expectations” that after Ms Wong’s trip, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will follow suit and meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prof Thayer said.

China is likely keen on improving relations with Australia as a diplomatic and trade partner, especially since China is trying to boost its economy following pandemic setbacks, he noted.

However, Prof Thayer said does not see the relationship advancing to pre-2018 levels, when ties were more intimate.

“There is common ground to advancing forward rather than holding in a negative position. (Both countries are) taking a long-term view and using this window of opportunity to tone down the rhetoric and some of the friction,” he said.