Anthony Albanese within hours of being installed as prime minister fell into the same trap many other Australian leaders have over Washington. On his first day of office, while there are so many domestic issues and administrative issues to contend with, Albanese rushed off to Tokyo with Foreign Minister Penny Wong for a meeting with the QUAD alliance.
Central to Albanese’s narrative was his new government’s stance on taking a much stronger climate change approach. Albanese held his first face-to face meeting with US President Biden on the sidelines of the QUAD meeting, on his second day as prime minister. Albanese went on to meet European leaders at the NATO Summit and pay a courtesy visit to President Zelenskyy of Ukraine.
These early meetings strongly symbolise the new government’s continued support of the US alliance and the tradition of Australian prime ministers posturing to US presidents. Some ALP rank and file are disappointed Albanese didn’t use his influence to bring Julian Assange back to Australia.
While there have been many urgent economic issues arising since Albanese came to power, he has chosen to spend most of his time outside Australia, suggesting his administration may focus heavily on foreign affairs during his term.
Letting any opportunity of rapprochement with China slip away
Albanese’s government has chosen to maintain a more adversarial approach to China, while supporting US Indo-Pacific initiatives. This makes Australia the exception to most other Pacific and South East Asia countries which have been learning how to attune their narratives and diplomatic gestures towards accepting dual presence of two-military and economic superpowers within the region.
Albanese has continued former prime minister Scott Morrison’s approach of being the odd man out in the region.
China sent out a number of messages to Albanese after his election win in a conciliatory manner, that implied China wanted to reset bilateral relations.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong did meet with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Summit in Bali, Indonesia, early in July. Wang Yi was reported to say that “As the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Australia draws near, China is ready to re-examine, re-calibrate, and reinvigorate bilateral ties in the spirit of mutual respect, and strive to bring bilateral relations back on the right track.”
According to reports, China made four demands of the Albanese Government as a basis to normalise relations. These are;
- Australia must treat China as a partner, not an adversary,
- Both countries, must adhere to a path of seeking common ground while reserving differences,
- Both countries must adhere to not targeting or being controlled by third parties, and
- Both countries must build a positive and pragmatic foundation of public opinion.
This is consistent with the Chinese Government press release, although they were not framed as demands, but aspirations. This appears to have been interpreted negatively by the Australian Government, academics, and media commentators in Australia.
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