China has reacted to Daniel Andrews’ four-day trip to Beijing, as the Victorian Premier continues to face criticism for his lack of transparency by not inviting any Australian media.
During a regular press conference on Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry was asked for its response to Mr Andrews’ visit, as it also marks the first trip to Beijing by any Australian politician since the latest AUKUS update.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said to “improve, maintain and achieve sound growth of China-Australia relations” served the “shared interest of both sides”.
“We hope Australia will work with China in line with the principles of mutual respect, mutual benefit and seeking common ground while shelving differences to properly handle issues we disagree on, expand cooperation and promote the sound and steady growth of bilateral relations,’ Ms Ning said.
Mr Andrews will visit Beijing to meet with senior trade officials, with a focus on also discussing Victoria’s tertiary education sector.
The bare-bones of his travel itinerary were released on Tuesday afternoon.
Mr Andrews is set to meet China’s Minister of Education Huai Jinpeng, Beijing Mayor Yin Yong and Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries Vice President Li Xukui.
The Victorian Premier will also hold meetings with the Commissioner for Victoria to Greater China Brett Stevens and Australian Ambassador to China Graham Fletcher.
The schedule did not provide further details about the trip or specific meeting times.
The release of Mr Andrews’s travel itinerary comes as he continues to face heat over his decision to not invite any Australian media on the trip, with critics questioning the secrecy of the visit.
Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute John Lee weighed in on the Victorian Premier’s visit to China with Sky News host Peter Stefanovic on Wednesday morning.
“Dan Andrews decides to go to China for unexplained meetings with barely any notice given, only one senior public servant, no industry or university representatives, and yet he says it’s a trade and education mission,” Mr Lee said.
“So he releases this schedule under pressure, even then it’s very skeletal in its nature, and then from this schedule we see that he’s meeting the Vice President of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC).”
Mr Lee explained the CPAFFC is a group funded by the Chinese Communist Party.
Former United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has previously hit out at CPAFFC for trying to influence foreign governments.
CPAFFC has been described by experts as one of the public faces of China’s United Front Work Department, an entity of the CCP used to conduct influence operations domestically and overseas.
“There may be legitimate reasons to meet with this group but the point is, why the secrecy?” Mr Lee continued.
“Why the absence of media, why the absence of those from business and the university sector? That’s what’s created the controversy.”
The visit marks the Victorian Premier’s seventh trip to China since 2015.