On Sunday, Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers reportedly urged China to "relax restrictions" on imports of Australian coal, saying that the move would be a key step in restoring ties between the two nations.
His remarks came after a Bloomberg report that said Chinese officials were considering a "potential shift" to import more Australian coal.
Before 2020, China was a major consumer and importer of Australian coal. But that picture has dramatically changed after two successive Australian governments adopted a series of anti-China policies that plunged bilateral ties to an all-time low and impacted quite a number of China-bound Australian exports, including coal, barley and Australian wine.
Since the Anthony Albanese government took office, Beijing has signaled its willingness to join hands with Canberra to put bilateral ties back onto the right track again as it always believes that bilateral cooperation is beneficial to both sides.
And Chalmers' remarks on resuming coal exports to China can be seen as representing the aspirations of the Australian business circle and relevant government departments to improve trade ties with China. Such voices have always existed in Australia, but they have been muted in recent years because of the anti-China sentiment that has built up a head of steam in the country.
However, while there seems to be a general thawing of the ice between the two countries, Chinese importers and consumers have been adapting to the new situation that had developed in China-Australia trade. Chinese importers may not have as strong an appetite to import Australian coal as before as the price right now is much higher than that of domestically produced coal.
Australian coal imports are just a small part of China-Australia trade. On the whole, the ball is in Canberra's court to work with Beijing to seize the opportunity to create conditions conducive to the sound and steady development of economic and trade ties.
In response to Chalmers' latest call for China to "relax restrictions" on Australian imports of coal, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin once again urged the Australian side to work with China in the same direction to reduce liabilities and build positive dynamics for improving bilateral relations.
Yet, judging by high-ranking Australian officials' recent remarks, it looks as if Canberra is nowhere near changing course. For example, on his first visit to the United States last week, Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles repeatedly advocated that Australia and the US should work together to contain China.
Without a correct perception of China and a consensus in the Australian political circle and society that China should be treated as a respected and valued partner, the current window of opportunity for improving bilateral ties may narrow and eventually shut without any tangible progress being made.