CANBERRA (Australia) -- China's ambassador in Australia said relations are at a "new juncture", with the election of a new Australian government, and the first minister to minister talks in over two years.
In a weekend speech, Ambassador Xiao Qian expressed optimism about the potential of bilateral relations in a speech to the Australia China Friendship Society on the west coast of Perth. The speech was posted Monday on the website of the Embassy.
"The international, political, and economic landscape is going through profound and complex changes. Xiao stated that the China-Australia relationship was at a new juncture and is facing many opportunities.
"My embassy in Australia and the Chinese consulates general in Australia are ready to work together with the Australian federal and state governments, and friends from all walks to move the China-Australia relationship forward along the right path to the benefit of our two countries," Xiao said.
Saturday's speech by Xiao came a day ahead of Gen. Wei Fenghe, the Chinese Defense Minister,'s hour-long meeting with Richard Marles, his Australian counterpart at a regional security summit in Singapore.
Marles described the meeting a "critical first steps" towards repairing bilateral relations. However, observers are cautious about describing the meeting in terms of a "critical first step" towards repairing bilateral relations.
Dennis Richardson, an ex-head of Defense, Foreign Affairs, and the spy agency Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, as well as an Australian ambassador to the United States, stated that both countries took the first chance to have ministerial contacts since Australia's May 21 elections.
In the nine years that a conservative coalition was in power, bilateral relations were strained.
Richardson said Monday that Richardson and the other participants agreed to speak at the first opportunity.
"I don’t believe we should go too far down this track. Richardson said that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Malcolm Davis, senior analyst in defense strategy, capability, at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, cautioned against exaggerating the importance of the meeting.
"They met for an hour and exchanged their views in a candid and open manner. Davis stated that this does not mean they will restore the status quo ante to the Australian relationship, as it was prior to 2015.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sent a message to Anthony Albanese, the Australian Prime Minister, to express his congratulations after his victory. This gesture was seen as China's attempt to restart relations.
Albanese replied by asking China to lift a number of trade barriers that were imposed in recent years on a variety of Australian exports, including wine, beef, and seafood, worth billions of dollars.
Bates Gill, an expert at Macquarie University on Chinese foreign policies, believed Beijing would not change its mind about trade sanctions.
"It would have had to be at the price of Australia agreeing with Chinese demands. Gill stated that he doesn't believe the current politics will allow for this.
Early in the pandemic, bilateral relations plunged to new heights when Australia demanded an independent investigation into COVID-19's origins and response.
Since he arrived in Canberra in January, China's new ambassador has been more conciliatory than Cheng Jingye.
Cheng warned that China would boycott Australian trade in 2020 if Australia did not heed its call for a COVID-19 investigation.