Published: 11:47, June 13, 2024 | Updated: 12:33, June 13, 2024
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Visits aim to strengthen exchanges and trust, and deepen cooperation
By China Daily

Chinese Premier Li Qiang is in New Zealand on an official visit, the first leg of his third overseas trip of the year that will also take him to Australia and Malaysia.

These visits have aroused broad interest as Li will be the first Chinese premier to visit New Zealand and Australia in seven years. And there has been no official visit to Malaysia by a Chinese premier since 2015.

The visits present a precious opportunity to strengthen the respective bilateral relations during this period of profound geopolitical challenges. There certainly is plenty to discuss after such long intervals.

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Judging from the messages from the four capitals so far, the focus of discussions is mainly on economic and trade cooperation. China is a salient cooperation partner of New Zealand and Australia. As important countries in the Asia-Pacific with high economic complementarity and promising futures for strengthened cooperation, China has worked with both countries to overcome any difficulties encountered to sustain the sound and steady growth of relations.

With broad common interests and great untapped cooperation potential in sight, the Chinese guest and his New Zealand and Australian hosts seem intent on not allowing their differences on security and geopolitics to get in the way of shoring up their economic and trade relations. After years of sometimes bitter exchanges, even in the form of trade disruptions, the three parties appear to have concluded that whatever their disagreements, at the end of the day they have to make things work, get along and get down to business.

Numerous previously thriving small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly in the private sector, are either struggling or have gone bankrupt as a result of the Western economies reshuffling their supply chains. And Australian exporters reportedly lost on average $13 billion a year as a result of the previous government's diplomatic row with Beijing.

China-Australia relations have thawed since Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's visit to Beijing in November 2023. During that visit the two governments agreed to resume key bilateral dialogues and further cooperation in a number of areas. In fact, Beijing has already dropped tariffs on Australian beef, barley and wine, lifted an import ban on timber and resumed coal shipments. Besides comparing notes on bilateral, regional and international issues of common concern, Li and Albanese are also expected to meet with Australian and Chinese business leaders.

"Premier Li Qiang's visit to Australia is an important opportunity to engage directly on key issues for both our nations," said Albanese. Saying that Australia continues to pursue a stable and direct relationship with China, with dialogue at its core, is recognition that letting Washington exclusively have its ear will be detrimental to Australian interests.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, too, sees Li's visit as a valuable opportunity for exchanges on deepening and broadening cooperation. In Wellington, officials are reportedly saying their discussions with the Chinese guest are aimed at realizing their goal of doubling exports to China in a decade.

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Since the establishment of diplomatic relations half a century ago, ties between China and Malaysia have enjoyed a sound momentum of growth, with deepening strategic mutual trust, fruitful high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, and increasingly closer cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Both countries champion the Asian values featuring peace, cooperation, inclusiveness and integration, and contribute significantly to peace, prosperity and stability in the region.

In Malaysia, as well as attending an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of China-Malaysia diplomatic relations, Li will take the opportunity to carry forward the traditional friendship between the two countries, and deepen and expand cooperation in various areas.

China is a key export market for New Zealand and Australia, and a traditional partner of Malaysia, so common prosperity is the most sensible goal for improved ties.

It will also send the badly needed message that the countries are capable of managing their rather convoluted relations in today's challenging geopolitical landscape.