China’s Premier Li Qiang Visits Australia, Marking Improvement in Trade Relations

China’s Premier Li Qiang is scheduled to visit Australia this weekend, marking the highest-ranking visit in seven years. The four-day trip, beginning Saturday, comes after Beijing lifted most of the trade barriers it had imposed on Australian exports, including coal, timber, barley, and wine. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed the visit as an important step in stabilizing relations between the two nations. He emphasized Australia’s commitment to a stable and direct relationship, based on dialogue and cooperation. While acknowledging the progress made in lifting trade barriers, Albanese called on China to remove remaining impediments on Australian lobsters and crayfish. The visit comes after China imposed trade sanctions on Australia in 2020, fueled by Canberra’s exclusion of Huawei from its 5G network, new foreign interference laws, and support for an international probe into the origins of Covid-19. Relations have since improved, with Albanese’s center-left government adopting a less strident diplomatic tone. Premier Li is expected to meet with Prime Minister Albanese in Canberra, as well as visit Adelaide and Perth to meet with business leaders. He is also scheduled to visit New Zealand before returning to Australia. Despite the detente on trade, Australia has strengthened its defense alliance with the United States in response to Beijing’s expanding diplomatic and military influence in the Pacific region. Canberra has accused Chinese forces of unsafe and unprofessional conduct in deploying sonar near its naval divers in the East China Sea and firing flares in the path of a naval helicopter over the Yellow Sea. Prime Minister Albanese has conveyed Australia’s concerns about these actions to Premier Li. Australia remains committed to opposing Beijing’s sovereignty claims over the South China Sea and has joined a landmark Australia-UK-US defense agreement, AUKUS, to supply Canberra with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Australia’s national defense strategy emphasizes the submarines as central to protecting its trade and securing access to air and sea.

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