Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali on Tuesday.
It marked the end of a six-year diplomatic freeze and the start of better diplomatic relations.
China’s $20 billion trade sanctions on Australia, detention of Australian citizens and relationship with Russia were discussed at the meeting.
The pair also discussed climate change and Albanese urged Xi to maintain the status quo when it comes to Taiwan.
But Albanese said both leaders spoke honestly with each other about these issues.
“We have big differences to manage, but we’re always going to be better off when we have dialogue and are able to talk constructively and respectfully, but also honestly, about what those differences are,” he told reporters in Bali.
“(Australia) will cooperate where we can, disagree where we must and act in the national interest.”
The prime minister said he urged the president to exercise China’s influence on Russia in relation to the war in Ukraine.
But he said it would have been unrealistic to assume there would be solutions to the challenges in the Australia-China relationship in one meeting.
Albanese described the meeting as a first step to moving forward but there were many more to go and there would be further meetings in future.
“It was a warm discussion … I put (Australia’s) position, clearly, firmly, but politely,” he said.
Ahead of the meeting, Xi said he did not want to see difficulties in the China-Australia relationship.
“China and Australia are both important countries in the Asia Pacific region,” he said.
“We should improve, maintain and develop our relationship as it is consistent with the fundamental interests of both countries’ people.”
Meanwhile, a Western-led push to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dominated talks in Bali where leaders of major economies grappled with a dizzying array of issues from hunger to nuclear threats.
President Vladimir Putin’s February 24 invasion of neighbouring Ukraine has pummelled the global economy and revived Cold War-era geopolitical divisions just as the world was emerging from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As at other recent international forums, the United States and its allies were seeking a statement from the two-day G20 summit against Moscow’s military actions.
But Russia, whose forces pounded cities and energy facilities across Ukraine even as the G20 met, said “politicisation” of the summit was unfair.
“Yes, there is a war going on in Ukraine, a hybrid war that the West has unleashed and been preparing for years,” said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, repeating Putin’s line that military alliance NATO’s expansion had threatened Russia.
A 16-page draft declaration seen by Reuters, which diplomats said was yet to be adopted by leaders, acknowledged the rift.
“Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy,” it said.
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