SYDNEY: Australia's relations with China will remain challenging, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said on Tuesday (May 24) amid reports the Chinese premier has congratulated the new Labor government on its election victory.
Ties between Australia and China, its largest trading partner, are at a low ebb after they clashed over a number of issues including trade, the origins of COVID-19 and accusations from Australia of Chinese political interference.
"From an Australian point of view, we understand the complexity of the relationship ... but China is seeking to shape the world around it in ways we have not seen before," Marles told ABC television.
"All of that I think is going to make it a pretty challenging pathway forward."
Anthony Albanese, who was sworn in as Australia's 31st prime minister on Monday, said the bilateral relationship would remain "a difficult one", before he left for a Quad summit in Tokyo with US President Joe Biden and the prime ministers of Japan and India.
The Quad is an informal security grouping seen in Beijing as an attempt to counter China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
A Xinhua report said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday sent a congratulatory message to Albanese over his election win, possibly ending a two-year Chinese diplomatic freeze of Australia.
Marles said he was not aware of any communication from Beijing.
Labor returned to power as a wave of support for the Greens and climate-focussed independents, mostly women, helped unseat the conservative Liberal-National coalition in Saturday's general election.
Former Defence Minister Peter Dutton was shaping up as favourite to lead the Liberals, local media reported, after former Prime Minister Scott Morrison stepped down as party leader.
With votes still being counted, Labor is leading on 75 seats - one short of a majority. Some analysts predict Labor will get enough seats to govern on their own.