The Philippine Star
November 8, 2022 | 7:06 p.m
BEIJING — China’s foreign minister called for the “restoration of mutual trust,” Beijing said in a phone call with his Australian counterpart on Tuesday, in a sign of easing after years of difficult relations between the countries.
Australia and China had virtually no high-level communications during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Beijing imposed a trade embargo on billions of dollars worth of Australian goods in retaliation for Canberra and called for an independent investigation into the origins of the virus.
China has previously urged Australia to address its grievances as a condition for improving ties, with Beijing’s ambassador quoting Foreign Minister Wang Yi as saying “a reset requires concrete action”.
But Wang has met twice this year with Australia’s top diplomat Penny Wong – a sign that relations are beginning to thaw since a new centre-left government led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese took power in May.
“Easing and improving China-Australia ties serves the fundamental interests of both sides,” Wang said, according to a reading of Tuesday’s call by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Both countries should “promote the restoration of mutual trust … gradually address their legitimate concerns and jointly make positive contributions to addressing the current global challenges,” Wang added.
Analysts believe a possible meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Albanese could take place on the sidelines of next week’s G20 summit in Bali.
Xi is also likely to have his first face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden at the summit, as the superpowers grapple with deteriorating relations on a range of issues.
However, China remains a hot-button issue in the Australian public debate, and politicians regularly raise concerns about national security and Beijing’s growing influence in neighboring Pacific island nations.
In June, Canberra said an Australian surveillance jet had been dangerously intercepted by a Chinese military plane in the South China Sea.
Beijing has also criticized Australia’s nuclear submarine pact with the United States and Britain, and regularly criticizes the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, an influential government-funded think tank that has produced leading research into alleged human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region .