Anthony Albanese says Australia will look to cooperate with China, but won’t respond to a list of demands from Beijing to rebuild the relationship between the countries.
Following talks between Foreign Minister Penny Wong and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, China outlined four ways ties could be restored.
After blaming the previous coalition government for a breakdown in relations between the two countries, Mr Wang said Australia would need to treat China as a partner rather than a rival, as well as reject “manipulation by a third party” – a veiled reference to the United States.
The prime minister said despite the demands listed by China, the government would stand up for national interests.
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“Australia doesn’t respond to demands, we respond to our own national interest,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“I’m not in a position to listen to what the Chinese media says, I’ll listen to what Penny Wong says about the meeting.”
Other demands from China included that the two countries look for common ground, while also building public support.
China’s foreign minister said he hoped Australia could “seize the opportunity” and come to a “correct understanding of China”.
“The root cause of the difficulties in Chinese and Australian relations in recent years lies in the insistence of previous Australian governments to treat China as an ‘opponent’ and even a ‘threat’,” Mr Wang said.
The talks between Senator Wong and Mr Wang were the first discussions between foreign ministers of the two countries in three years, following a diplomatic freeze.
Since that time, China has placed trade sanctions on many Australian goods such as barley, beef and wine.
Mr Albanese said the federal government had a consistent view on China, despite the change of government at the last election.
“(The meeting) was just a step forward, Australia has not changed our position on any issues. We’ll continue to be constructive,” he said.
“I want to build good relations with all countries, but we will stand up for Australia’s interests when we must.”
Pacific Minister Pat Conroy said the federal government was still seeking to push China on key items in the national interests in the wake of diplomatic talks resuming.
“There are significant issues that we need to resolve such as the trade blockage, such as the detention of several Australian citizens and we’re working hard on that,” he told ABC Radio on Monday.
“But this is a process that will take a long time, and we’re committed to that dialogue, but our national interest has not changed.”
Nationals leader David Littleproud defended the handling of the relationship with China by the previous government.
He said the talk from China and list of demands following the meeting was “propaganda”.
“We’re happy to have dialogue, but it’s not giving demands, that’s not how you throw your weight around the international community,” he told Sky News.
“This should be about having open dialogue, respectful dialogue, respecting one another’s sovereignty … and that’s what we did as a government.”