Australian Foreign Secretary Penny Wong will meet her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Friday during the first high-level face-to-face talks since 2019.
Most important points:
- The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that the couple will meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali
- The meeting will take place on Friday at 8:00 PM AEST
- It has been almost three years since the foreign ministers of Australia and China met in person
China’s foreign ministry has announced that Mr. Wang will meet Senator Wong on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Bali on Friday.
It is another sign that relations between Australia and China are beginning to thaw, and the clearest signal yet that Beijing is ready to resume a sustained high-level dialogue with the new Labor government.
Both ministers are already in Bali ahead of the G20 event and will meet outside the main meeting around 6pm local time (8pm AEST).
Arriving in Bali from Singapore on Thursday, Senator Wong declined to say whether a meeting was already planned, but expressed hopes for an improvement in bilateral relations.
“We believe it would be in the interest of China and Australia for this relationship to be stabilized. And for that, both sides need to take a step,” she said.
Australia and China still have some deep-seated disputes that the meeting between Senator Wong and Wang Yi is unlikely to resolve.
Australia urges China to lift a series of punitive trade sanctions on Australian goods, while Beijing demands Australia take “concrete steps” to restore ties.
But the meeting could still allow both countries to take the first step towards a reset by reviving discussions between high-ranking figures in both countries.
It is also a clear signal that Beijing has ended Australia’s diplomatic freeze.
Last month, Defense Secretary Richard Marles met his Chinese counterpart in Singapore, but the meeting between Mr. Wang and Senator Wong ends a long hiatus in contact between the two countries’ foreign ministers.
Australia’s former Foreign Secretary Marise Payne last spoke by phone with her Chinese counterpart in early 2020, shortly after the first cases of COVID-19 were discovered in Wuhan.
And the last time the foreign ministers of both countries met in person was in September 2019.
Countries with ‘influence’ must help end Russian invasion, says Senator Wong
Senator Wong is likely to use Friday’s meeting to reiterate her call on China to use its influence over Russia to end the war in Ukraine and to show “restraint” in its dealings with smaller countries in the region.
In a speech in Singapore on Wednesday, Senator Wong said major countries with “influence” over Russia should use it to end the war in Ukraine.
“This includes China, as a great power, a permanent member of the Security Council, and with its ‘unlimited partnership’ with Russia,” she said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and the blockade of food exports from the country’s ports — is expected to overshadow G20 proceedings on Friday.
The presence of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could cause a rift among those present.
There has been speculation that some countries may leave the meeting – when Lavrov will speak – to protest the ongoing war, although Senator Wong has indicated that this is unlikely.
“We certainly intend to use the meeting – rather than leave the meeting – but use the meeting to highlight what Russia has done,” she said.
It is clear that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will demand from other countries that Russia put pressure on reopening shipping lanes to allow food exports from Ukraine, and that China will again warn against backing Moscow.
Ahead of Friday’s G20 meeting, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also demanded that Russia not be allowed to use the meeting as a platform.
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