Photograph: Lukas Coch/EPA
Chinese state media are urging Australia to resist being “influenced by Washington” and to “show verbal goodwill and substantial action” on the eve of Penny Wong’s visit to Beijing.
Two state media outlets have published editorials that may give an indication of the Chinese government’s wishes for next steps in what the Australian government calls a “stabilisation” of the relationship.
Before his departure from Canberra on Tuesday, Australia’s foreign minister said it would help the relationship if China released detained Australians Cheng Lei and Yang Hengjun so they could be reunited with their families.
The Global Times, a nationalist paper that has gained a reputation in recent years as one of the most outspoken against Australia, appeared mostly positive about the approach taken by Anthony Albanese’s government.
Related: Australia seeks direct resolution of trade dispute with China ahead of WTO decision
She said in her op-ed on Tuesday that the relationship was “starting to warm up from the freezing point.” He denounced the “radical, narrow, erroneous and stupid Chinese policies of the last two Australian administrations” under Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.
At the height of tensions in 2020, China blocked phone calls between Australian government ministers and their direct counterparts and launched trade actions against Australian export sectors, including wine and barley, in moves Morrison branded as ” economic coercion”.
The Coalition argued that decisions China has opposed – including introducing new foreign interference laws, banning Chinese telecom firm Huawei from 5G and calling for an investigation into the origins of Covid – were taken in Australia’s national interest.
The Global Times on Tuesday attributed the rupture of relations to Australia’s willingness to “serve as the most aggressive pawn vis-à-vis China on the US Asia-Pacific chessboard.”
The newspaper said it now expected the relationship to “get out of the situation and turn around” but warned that difficulties remained.
Australia should stop “politicised” investigations into Chinese foreign investment, the Global Times said.
The China Daily, meanwhile, published an editorial titled “Mutual respect and sincerity can reset relations between China and Australia”.
Related: Out of the Freeze: How Real is the Thaw in Australia’s Relations with China?
He praised Albanese’s “pragmatic approach” in declaring that Australia seeks a stable relationship in which “we will cooperate where we can, disagree where we must and be committed to the national interest”.
While there is no sign that China’s trade shares are being pulled back anytime soon, China Daily said Chinese firms would welcome a rapprochement because it “would make it easier for them to do business with their Australian counterparts.”
China Daily called for more talks between the two governments in a wide range of areas “to boost political confidence”.
“The Australian government shouldn’t be influenced by Washington,” he added. “Australia’s ties with the United States need not come at the expense of its relationship with China.”
Australia’s senior ministers have repeatedly said that while the government is adopting a different tone and pursuing engagement with China, it will not stop defending Australia’s interests and values.
This includes pressuring China to abolish trade actions, urging against any changes to the status quo on Taiwan, and continuing to raise human rights concerns.
Australia continues to expand its defense ties with the US, UK and Japan. Albanese said he met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bali last month, despite Australia offering “no concessions, not one”.
Joining Wong for a press conference before his flight, Albanese said the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations on Wednesday “provides an opportunity for both sides to reflect on the relationship and how it can be more constructive in the future.” “.
Wong has lowered expectations on any concrete results of the talks with his counterpart, Wang Yi.
Related: Former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been appointed ambassador to the United States
He said the expectation “should be that we will have a meeting” and warned that “many of the difficult issues in the relationship will take time to resolve in our best interests”.
Wong said he would lobby not only for the resumption of consular access for detained Australians “but also for the reunification of Dr Yang and Cheng Lei with their families”. Such progress “would be beneficial to the relationship.”
The opposition spokesman for foreign affairs, Simon Birmingham, acknowledged the Labor government’s “continuity of policy” towards China.
He said continuity is “very important to ensure that China and the rest of the world can see that attempts at coercion through trade sanctions or the like have not produced political change in Australia.”
Birmingham said it was “counterproductive” for China to block dialogue for two years starting in 2020.