China praises Morrison’s leadership
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has told Scott Morrison his "positive attitude" toward the economic powerhouse has helped to restore relations between the two countries.
In a diplomatic victory for the prime minister, Premier Li said the talks last night marked a "turning point after our ups and downs".
It marked a positive end to a day which began with a tough meeting between Mr Morrison and Indonesian President Joko Widodo who demanded an explanation of Australia's decision to consider moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Mr Morrison had hoped to steady the relationship with both nations in sideline talks at the East Asian summit in Singapore.
While there was still no timeline on the signing of the Indonesian free trade agreement which was put at risk over the embassy move, Australia's troubles with China appeared to be in the past.
Premier Li told Mr Morrison that Australia was an "important strategic" partner.
"This (meeting) is a sign of our mutual respect. It is also a dialogue on friendship and co-operation," he said.
"I also hope that our meeting today can make sure the steady progress of our relations which would be beneficial to both countries and our region."
China had put Australia in the diplomatic freezer over Malcolm Turnbull's handling of foreign interference laws and decisions to block Chinese investment.
Earlier his year following talks with then-foreign minister Julie Bishop, China's foreign minister Wang Yi told Australia to "take off coloured glasses" when dealing with his country.
He blamed Australia the relationship having "encountered some difficulties".
But last month Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham made the first ministerial trip to China in a year.
Mr Morrison's positive meeting with Premier Li, where they two leaders joked as they entered the room before official discussions got underway, marked a further step in the repair.
Mr Morrison greeted Premier Li using Mandarin but then had to admit "that's about as much as I can do" which was met with laughter.
The prime minister then explained that he used to be in the tourism industry in Australia and
that given the number of Chinese tourists "you need to be able to know how to say nǐ hǎo".
After the meeting Mr Morrison said that the discussion had underscored the strength of Australia and China's relationship.
Concerns that Mr Morrison's announcement last week that Australia would pump billions into investment in the Pacific, viewed as a response to China's growing influence in the region, would derail progress repairing the relationship were not realised.
During the meeting Mr Morrison outlined how Australia could partner with other nations including China on projects in the region.
Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang said earlier this week other countries should abandon what he called a "Cold War mentality and the zero-sum game mentality which are both outdated".
"The Pacific island region is not a sphere of influence of any country," he said.
"And we hope that all can contribute more to the development of the island countries' economies, the improvement of their peoples' livelihoods and contribute to the peace and stability of this region."
When asked if Pacific nations could become subject of a bidding war, Mr Morrison said "I don't believe so".
"That's certainly not the spirit of which we've entered into this new initiative," he said.
"Both New Zealand and Australia have always been engaging with our Pacific family and we're taking that just to a whole new level. And we're not doing that to the exclusion of others."