China has congratulated newly-elected Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, ending three-year freeze in diplomatic contact between the two countries.
“The Chinese side is ready to work with the Australian side to review the past, look into the future... to promote the sound and steady growth of their comprehensive strategic partnership,” Beijing’s state-run Xinhua news agency cited Chinese premier Li Keqiang as saying on Monday.
Relations between China and Australia have strained since 2018 when Australia became the first country to ban Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. from its 5G wireless networks.
Ties with Beijing got even worse during the pandemic after former premier Scott Morrison called for a probe into the origins of the coronavirus, toeing the line of US leaders, who blamed it on China.
Australia has also expressed concerns over Beijing’s recent security pact with the Solomon Islands, which would see the two sides working closely to maintain security on the island country.
China, on the other side, is miffed with Canberra’s new arrangements with the UK and the US to equip its navy with nuclear-powered submarines in a new defense alliance called AUKUS.
In his first address as the 31st prime minister of Australia, Albanese said the relationship with Beijing would “remain a difficult one”.
“It is China that has changed, not Australia; and Australia should always stand up for our values,” the 59-year-old center-left Labor Party leader said.
Meanwhile, after his Tuesday meeting with leaders of Japan, India, and the US in Tokyo for a Quad summit, Albanese said that “strong views” were expressed during the meeting, without referring to his government’s standing on the issue.
Without clarifying his government’s military and foreign policy in the Quad group, especially on climate change, he said his government's goals were aligned with the priorities of the Quad group of countries over the issue.
“That’s why my government will take ambitious action on climate change and increase our support to partners in the region as they work to address it, including with new finance,” he said.
Albanese defeated Morrison’s conservative party in a tightly-contested election on Saturday. He was on Monday sworn in as the new prime minister, with four key cabinet members, including new Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Treasurer Jim Chalmers, and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher.
Soon after assuming power as the 31st Aussie prime minister, Albanese headed to Japan to participate in a Quad group summit.
It is the country's first Labor government in almost a decade. The immediate challenge facing Albanese is to manage Canberra's regional and global economic and military alliance with the US while de-escalating tensions with Beijing.