Anthony Albanese has repeatedly declined to say whether he ‘trusts’ China or if he’ll extend an invite for Xi Jinping to visit Australia ahead of high-level talks with the President.

The Prime Minister was twice asked on Monday if he trusted President Xi – however, on both occasions, Mr Albanese declined to directly answer the question, simply describing their relationship as ‘constructive’. 

While he refused to give a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question of whether he trusted the Chinese leader, Mr Albanese did say that China’s President has ‘never said anything to me that has not been done’.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later on Monday

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later on Monday

‘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.’

The comments come after Mr Albanese was warned against trusting China on face value by US President Joe Biden while in Washington for a state dinner. 

Quoting Ronald Reagan, Mr Biden said Mr Albanese should ‘trust, but verify’ what China says.

The Prime Minister added there were ‘promising signs’ of a further stabilisation in Australia’s trading relationship with China after a number of punitive tariffs were removed.

‘China is our most important trading partner. It represents more than 25% of our exports and one in four of our jobs relies upon our trade,’ he said.

‘So it’s an important relationship.’

Mr Albanese retraced history on Monday morning with a private tour of the Temple of Heaven – one of the first stops for Gough Whitlam on his official visit to Beijing in 1973.

Mr Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong visit China's 'Temple of Heaven' in Beijing

Mr Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong visit China’s ‘Temple of Heaven’ in Beijing

Mr Albanese and Ms Wong during a media appearance in the Chinese capital

Mr Albanese and Ms Wong during a media appearance in the Chinese capital

He will then travel to the Great Hall of the People to meet with Chairman of the People’s Congress, Zhao Leji, and President Xi.

It marks the second time the pair has formally met after meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali.

Asked if he would return the favour and invite Mr Xi to Australia, Mr Albanese remained coy.

‘I’m having a meeting this afternoon and I will report after the meeting about what we discussed,’ he said.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who arrived in Beijing on Sunday evening, will attend the high-level talks alongside Mr Albanese before meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

Overnight in Shanghai, the Prime Minister left the door open to China’s future membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for trans-Pacific Partnership.

It came as Chinese Premier Li Qiang, opening the China International Import Expo, said China would ‘actively pursue’ entry into the partnership.

Mr Albanese warned that China must demonstrate the highest possible trade standards if it were to join the bloc.

Opposition’s cyber security and countering foreign interference spokesman James Paterson said while Mr Albanese’s trip was an important step in stabilising the relationship but warned: ‘We have to be honest.’

Senator Paterson said China’s track record with trade needed to be kept at the forefront.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Shanghai on Sunday. Picture: Hector Retamal / AFP

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Shanghai on Sunday. Picture: Hector Retamal / AFP

‘In my view, it would be absurd to admit as a member of one of the highest standard agreements in the world a country which until recently had engaged in up to $20bn of economic sanctions against the bilateral free trade agreement,’ he told ABC Radio.

‘If the Chinese government is not able to abide by the standards it voluntarily agreed to enter into under the Australian free trade agreement, why should we expect that they will behave any differently in the future?’

The opposition’s foreign affairs spokesman, Simon Birmingham, echoed his colleague, saying there were ‘both short-term and long-term barriers’ to China joining the CPTPP.

‘The short-term one is that China has not acted in good faith with Australia on trade terms recently, so we would need to see a good period of good faith engagement before considering membership,’ he told Sky News.

‘And the second, longer-term problem is that China really has systemic barriers to being able to meet the high standards of the CPTPP, which include strong rules around how state-owned enterprises work in their economy, so you would need to see reform in China ahead of any membership being introduced.



Senator Paterson said it was his hope that Mr Albanese used his meeting with President Xi to canvas a range of issues, including the ongoing ‘unjustified sanctions’ against the Australian economy.

‘I think it’s important that the Prime Minister raises the full range of issues in the bilateral relationship with Xi Jinping, including the foreign interference and espionage in our democracy but also the ongoing detention of Australian citizen Dr Yang Hengjun,’ he said.

Senator Paterson said China continued to ‘pose national security challenges’ to Australia.

‘I think they (China) certainly do pose national security challenges to Australia in terms of foreign interference and espionage, in terms of cyber attacks, in terms of intellectual property theft but also in terms of malign conduct that they’re engaging in the South China Sea,’ he said.

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