China congratulates Australia’s Albanese in hint at thawing ties

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Chinese premier Li Keqiang has sent a congratulatory note to newly-elected Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese, Beijing’s state media reported, ending a year-long freeze in diplomatic contact between the two countries.

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China cut off diplomatic and trade channels with Australia in a largely symbolic act of fury last May, following clashes over issues including human rights, espionage and the origins of Covid-19.

“The Chinese side is ready to work with the Australian side to review the past, look into the future... to promote the sound and steady growth of their comprehensive strategic partnership,” Premier Li said, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency late on Monday.

Tensions between the countries soared in the last two years after Canberra called for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and banned telecoms giant Huawei from building Australia’s 5G network.

China -- Australia’s biggest trading partner -- responded by imposing tariffs or disrupting more than a dozen key industries, including wine, barley and coal.

Li’s message came as Albanese was heading for his first foreign engagement in Tokyo, where he is meeting with the leaders of Japan, India and the United States -- an informal grouping known as the Quad seen as an effort to counter China.

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