Wang Yi’s Recent Visits to New Zealand and Australia Deepen Ties

Wang’s high-profile visit delivered important bilateral gains, strengthened political trust and charted a new course for future economic trade and win-win engagement.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently wrapped up his highly successful visit to Australia and New Zealand. He met with top officials, including New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, promising to herald a new decade of greater development and trade and to strengthen inter-government talks on foreign policy. The tour came at the invitation of both Australia’s and New Zealand’s foreign ministers, and lays important groundwork for bolstering high-level engagements between China and two of its key partners in Oceania.

Look no further than the seventh China-Australia Foreign and Strategic Dialogue: both countries agreed to coordinate interests on trade and economy, and will actively work toward a maritime affairs dialogue. This is an important leap from 2022, when Wang and Australian counterpart Penny Wong pledged to strengthen coordination on critical aspects of their comprehensive strategic partnership. Now prospective collaborations include new energy, digital economy, green development, science and technology and other high-valued fields.

Given the value of substantial trade and economic interests, Wang’s visit played an important role in deepening political trust and further stabilizing the Sino-Australian relationship. Scores of Australian business leaders and think tank heads attended the Australia China Business Council (ACBC) meeting, demonstrating their interest in advancing economic and shared market opportunities. Optimism runs high for elevated engagement across climate, digital trade, energy exports and green technologies, demonstrating the extent of “complementary advantages” between Canberra and its top trading partner.

Wang’s constructive exchanges in New Zealand also merit significant optimism for long-term trade, policy and diplomatic success. After all, Wellington continues to work toward a new era of high-quality development with Beijing, given its continued participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and heightened prospects of multisector business engagement. Wellington also stands true to the foundations of the Sino-New Zealand relations, given its sustained compliance with the one-China policy.

Photo taken on Mar. 23, 2022 shows a view of the ports of Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo/Xinhua)

For future bilateral cooperation, New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said that New Zealand is willing to deepen cooperation in areas including economy and trade, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, education, tourism, agriculture, technology and climate action as well as promote common prosperity of the two countries and safeguard regional and world peace and stability.

Years of progress provide a solid platform to scale up two-way trade even further. China serves as New Zealand’s biggest trading partner and a major proponent of tariff elimination. Greater willingness to implement an upgraded China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is a major takeaway from Wang’s trip, as it highlights further ease in market access and streamlined trade flows. Welcome consensus to fast-track inter-government talks on foreign policy, trade and climate change has also played a role in New Zealand trade minister Todd McClay’s reciprocal visit to China next month, strengthening mutual trust.

A recent series of bilateral high-level exchanges mirror China’s goodwill on win-win cooperation with Australia. Australia has tempered the adverse influence of third parties on its China policy, and continues to meet Beijing halfway in reviving layers of strategic and bilateral dialogue opportunities. The ACBC meeting proved particularly noteworthy in this regard, as it repositioned Sino-Australian business interests at the center of government dialogue. As the Council’s national president David Olsson recently suggested, more frank engagements with China’s top diplomat served as an opportunity to improve one’s own understanding of Beijing’s true outlook on development and world affairs.

China continues to serve as a top supplier of competitively manufactured goods to Australia and its fast-expanding market hosts a range of Australian importers, including in wine and barley. Meanwhile, Canberra’s supplies of iron ore, natural gas and lithium to Beijing indicate highly complementary strides towards the new energy frontier. In Penny Wong’s own telling, the path forward for Canberra is a stable and constructive relationship with China.

Thus understood, Wang’s high-profile visit delivered important bilateral gains, strengthened political trust and charted a new course for future economic trade and win-win engagement.


The author is a foreign affairs commentator, author and recipient of the Fulbright Award.