A cautiously optimistic Penny Wong has emerged from a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, saying “the first step” had been taken to repair the damage to the relationship.
Her comments came after the parley on the sidelines of the G20 conference in Bali, where Mr Wang complained that the Scott Morrison’s government had inflamed relations by treating China as an opponent and a threat.
Senator Wong afterwards described the meeting as important, but also cautioned that stabilising the countries’ relationship would take time and effort.
“We both recognised it is a first step for both our nations,” she told reporters on Friday.
“We’ve got a path to walk and we’ll see if it can lead to a better place between the two countries.”
Mr Wang expressed hope that Australia could “seize the opportunity, take concrete actions and come to a correct understanding of China”, according to a summary published by China’s foreign ministry on Saturday.
“The root cause of the difficulties in Chinese and Australian relations in recent years lies in the insistence of previous Australian governments to treat China as an ‘opponent’ and even a ‘threat’,” Mr Wang said.
Mr Wang told Senator Wong that China was conducting “equal exchange and cooperation” with sovereign island nations based on their requests and needs, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
China has issued trade sanctions against many Australian products including wine, beef, coal and lobsters.
It has also signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands and seeks similar deals with other Pacific nations.