China’s foreign minister is expected to visit Australia in July as diplomatic relations between the two trading partners stabilise, the South China Morning Post reported on Friday.
The visit by the minister, Qin Gang, has not been officially announced but would take place in July, the newspaper reported, citing a source “close to the Chinese government”.
An Australian academic, James Laurenceson, director of the Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) at the University of Technology Sydney, said he was aware of a July visit but could not confirm a date.
The office of Australia’s foreign minister, Penny Wong, did not respond to a request for comment.
Diplomatic exchanges were frozen in 2020 as China put curbs on a dozen Australian exports after it was angered by an Australian call for an international investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tension has eased since Australia elected a Labor government in May last year although there has been no change in policy on China and a defence shakeup will see it work more closely with security partner the United States.
Wong visited Beijing in December.
“Qin Gang visiting Australia is big news in that he’ll be the highest-profile Chinese official to arrive since the bilateral thaw,” Laurenceson told Reuters.
“A reciprocal visit to Australia by Qin Gang for the 2023 Foreign and Strategic Dialogue is part of the restored normal course of bilateral diplomacy,” he said.
The dialogue is an annual formal meeting between the two nations, whose foreign ministers last met in March on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in New Delhi.
China is Australia’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade in goods worth A$287 billion ($195 billion) in 2022, dominated by iron ore exports that China cannot easily replace.
Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell is meeting his Chinese counterpart in Beijing on Friday. Australia is pushing for the removal of all of China’s trade barriers, which began to ease this year. read more
China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, said in an interview in China’s state-owned Global Times newspaper on Friday that it was a crucial year to stabilise ties.
“At present, the operation of global industrial and supply chains is blocked, and trade and investment activities continue to slump,” he said.
“China-Australia pragmatic cooperation is not only conducive to the stable economic development of the two countries, but also has special significance for China and Australia to cope with global economic challenges.”
Australia was a stable supplier of minerals and energy resources, he said, while China exported cheap industrial and consumer goods to “help Australian consumers reduce living costs and curb inflation”.