Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles has said the “challenges” in Australia’s relations with China will continue.
Australia’s diplomatic communications with China have slightly improved with the Albanese Government securing multiple bilateral meetings with counterparts in Beijing.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with her Chinese opposite number Wang Yi on Saturday during her trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
Senator Wong reiterated ongoing government rhetoric on its vow to continue the “path of stabilising the relationship” and urged China to return to its framework of free trade.
“We both have much to lose by the disintegration of that system and we both have much to gain from direct and productive engagement,” Senator Wong said alongside State Councillor Wang ahead of the meeting.
The Deputy Prime Minister welcomed the engagement between the two sides and said that respectful dialogue was the only way to advance mutual interests.
But Mr Marles also maintained the government’s commitment to continue to stand up for Australia in terms of ongoing trade disputes and concerns over imprisoned nationals in China.
“When there are issues which are in Australia’s national interests which differ from the actions of any country but certainly China it’s important that we are able to articulate that and we will,” Mr Marles told Englishheadline Australia’s Kieran Gilbert on Sunday.
“We will continue to do that, and I think for that reason there will continue to be challenges in our relationship with China.”
The Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister said the government would also endeavour to engage with Beijing on “consular matters” – including the imprisonment of Cheng Lei – and ongoing concerns for human rights abuses.
“Because that’s a statement about who we are that we continue to speak to our national interest,” he said.
“But I do believe doing that in a sober and diplomatic tone does allow us to move to a place where the relationship can be more stable.”
In her speech to the UN General Assembly, Senator Wong called for reform of the global organisation and of the Security Council.
The Foreign Minister said the veto power bestowed upon the five permanent members of the UNSC was not designed to “enable unchecked abuse of the UN charter” in reference to China’s refusal to intervene in Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.
“It is especially important for countries that play leading roles in international fora, and countries with influence on Russia, to exert their influence to end this war,” Senator Wong said.
“In this, the world looks to China, a great power, a Permanent Member of the Security Council, with a ‘no limits partnership’ with Russia.
“Mr Putin’s weak and desperate nuclear threats underline the danger that nuclear weapons pose to us all, and the urgent need for progress on nuclear disarmament.”
Senator Wong said Australia was “genuinely committed” to reforming the United Nations and the Security Council and called for permanent representation for Africa, Latin America and Asia specifically pointing to Japan and India.