Australian and Chinese leaders have talked up the opportunities for future cooperation on issues of common interest, brushing aside recent diplomatic strain stemming from philosophical differences.
A 45-minute meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was the first item on Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s agenda as he flew in to Bangkok on Sunday afternoon ahead of the East Asia Summit on Monday.
Canberra’s relationship with Beijing has been tense over the past few years, with China taking exception to accusations the country is trying to interfere with Australia’s political system.
China has also repeatedly suggested Australia keep its criticisms private, when senior ministers have spoken out on issues such as human rights abuses.
Just last week, Foreign Minister Marise Payne was on the receiving end of a stern rebuke from China’s Foreign Ministry, which labelled her comments about an Australian academic locked up on suspicion of espionage as being ill informed and lacking a basic understanding of the facts.
Mr Morrison and Mr Li pushed the importance of their nation’s economic partnership, while also respecting each other’s political processes.
“There is no historical feud or fundamental conflict of interest between China and Australia,” a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry read.
“The two sides should grasp the general direction of China-Australia relations, truly regard each other’s development as an opportunity … properly handle differences, and push for the return of China-Australia relations to the normal track of long term health and stability.”
Mr Morrison said he greatly appreciated Australia’s number one trading partner.
“Like you, I feel very strongly and am committed to improving that relationship and ensuring we realise its full potential,” he told Mr Li.
Mr Morrison had been hoping to meet President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the now-cancelled APEC summit in Chile, scheduled for later this month.