On May 24th, following the election win of the Australian Labor Party and the subsequent win of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sent a congratulatory note to his Australian counterpart in an apparent move to end a year-long freeze in diplomatic contact and an improvement of diplomatic relations since 2020.

This signals to the international community that China and Australia are taking different approaches to solving their diplomatic problems. The only question is, is it going to work?

A Brief History

China had cut off both diplomatic and trade relationships with Australia in 2021 due to their political issues that quickly burned through what remained of their diplomatic ties. However, as early as 2016, Australia emerged as one of China’s opponents to its territorial conquests in the South China Sea, firmly upholding the Philippines’ arbitration case win regarding the historical claims of China on the disputed islands, specifically the 9-dash line it tried to enforce.

A year later, Australia would pass the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme amid a series of political scandals involving the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese Communist Party was allegedly trying to influence Australian politics, which would lead 72% of the Australian public to state that the Australian government is allowing too much investment from China based on a Lowy Institute poll.

More alleged reports appeared regarding Chinese infiltration within the Australian government during the Morrison administration. This would later be known as the 2019 Australian Parliament infiltration plot where a Chinese businessman Bo “Nick” Zhao was paid by suspected Chinese spy and Melbourne businessman Brian Chen to run for Australian Parliament. He later died in a hotel room after apparently overdosing on medication under financial pressures.

In 2019, Australian and Chinese diplomatic relations would soon reach a new low when Australia, along with 22 nations, condemned the Chinese leadership for mistreating and killing the Uyghur population, with some survivors being sent to re-education camps. In 2020, the Australian government also put its foot down to oppose the Hong Kong national security law amid fervent anti-government riots in the country for alleged attempts of silencing free speech.

Australia then called for an open investigation regarding the causes of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020. This caused an uproar which resulted in China implementing a de-facto sanction on Australian beef, barley, coal, and lobsters. At that time, China also imposed an 80.5% tariff on Australian barley imported to China. On the other hand, Australia banned Huawei and ZTE from building Australia’s 5G.

In November 2020, it was disclosed that Australia published 14 grievances by China, which would then be handed to various news agencies in Australia.