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Premier Li Qiang heads to New Zealand and Australia

The rare visit is a chance of rapprochement with Washington’s key Pacific allies amid increasing global tensions
  • Both Wellington and Canberra have stressed their willingness to engage in frank dialogue with Beijing

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Premier Li Qiang is set to visit New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia during an eight day trip starting Thursday, state media reports. It will be the first official trip down under for a Chinese premier since 2017, and the first to Malaysia since 2015.

Li Qiang’s first stop will be New Zealand, where Prime Minister Christopher Luxon described the upcoming visit as a “valuable opportunity” to talk trade and regional issues. China is New Zealand’s largest trade partner, with two-way trade totalling US$23.2 billion in the year ending March 2024.

“New Zealand and China engage where we have shared interests, and we speak frankly and constructively with each other where we have differences,” said Luxon. “Our relationship is significant, complex, and resilient.”

[See more: China and South Korea are to resume free trade talks]

Li is set to touch down in Australia on Saturday, where he will co-chair the ninth China-Australia Annual Leaders’ Meeting with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. The two will also meet with Australian and Chinese business leaders at a roundtable in Western Australia during Li’s four day visit. 

“Welcoming the Chinese Premier to Australia is an opportunity for us to advance our interests by demonstrating our national values, our people’s qualities and our economy’s strengths,” Albanese said at a press conference yesterday. 

He added that Australia was dedicated to pursuing “a stable and direct relationship with China, with dialogue at its core.”

In Malaysia, Li is scheduled to hold talks with King Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar and Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. The Premier will also attend celebrations for the 50th anniversary of China-Malaysia diplomatic ties.

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