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Xi and me: Albanese says Chinese leader ‘has never let me down’

Anthony Albanese won’t admit he trusts Xi Jinping, but says the Chinese president has never let him down as he prepares for a crucial meeting with him in Beijing.

Nov 06, 2023, updated Nov 06, 2023
Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visits the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China, Monday, November 6, 2023. Anthony Albanese will hold talks in China with President Xi Jinping in the first visit to the Asian nation by a sitting prime minister since 2016. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visits the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China, Monday, November 6, 2023. Anthony Albanese will hold talks in China with President Xi Jinping in the first visit to the Asian nation by a sitting prime minister since 2016. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The prime minister arrived in China on Sunday night AEDT, where he’s left open the possibility of Australia backing their bid to join a trans-Pacific trade bloc.

Mr Albanese has also been asked about Beijing’s disapproval of the AUKUS arrangement, which the PM said would “promote security, peace and stability in the region”.

But his personal relationship with President Xi was under the microscope on Monday morning, declaring he’d “always acted on his word”.

“We have different political systems but the engagements I have had with China, with President Xi Jinping have been positive, they have been constructive … he has never said anything to me that has not been done,” he told reporters at Beijing’s Temple of Heaven.

“We deal with each other on face value … my job is to represent Australia’s national interests, he is the leader of a different nation with different interests.”

Speaking in Shanghai earlier on the first day of his trip, Mr Albanese reaffirmed Australia’s support for rules-based trade and stated the nation’s support for the World Trade Organisation, which he described as an independent umpire.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang opened a major trade show by pledging Beijing’s support for international rules and rejecting protectionism.

Mr Albanese would not rule out backing China’s application to join the 12-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“What we’ve said is any country must demonstrate that it can meet the high standards of the agreement and that is the basis of that going forward,” he said.

Mr Albanese will meet with Mr Xi at the Great Hall of the People on Monday evening AEDT.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong will also accompany the prime minister during the meeting with China’s president.

Former Australian ambassador to China Geoff Raby said the meeting with President Xi gave Australia a chance to look to the future of ties with the Asian nation.

“This is a period to look ahead in the relationship, put the issues that have been so divisive to one side,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“In conversation with the president, of course, we would expect the prime minister will make Australia’s position on these issues very clear.”

Senior fellow at the Lowy Institute Richard McGregor said while the federal government had helped stabilise relations, China was always willing to come to the table.

“The government really has been pushing at an open door. In other words, China was very amenable to stabilising the relationship,” he told ABC radio.

“We can build relationships in a way, but we are a close United States ally. Over the course of the falling-out with China, we’ve become a closer (ally to the US).”

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