Chinese locals were reportedly stunned to see Anthony Albanese on an early-morning march around central Shanghai.
The Prime Minister donned a green and gold Matilda’s jersey and a cap from his beloved South Sydney Rabbitoh’s while strolling around The Bund waterfront district in downtown Shanghai on Sunday morning.
He was accompanied by at least eight security personnel as he waved to the occasional passerby on the almost-deserted esplanade and asked one in typical Aussie fashion: ‘How are you going?’
Despite the seemingly large security presence – to Western eyes at least – many locals were apparently shocked to see a world leader out in public interacting with people.
‘Many Shanghainese couldn’t believe how light his security detail was — or that he would talk to passers-by as he did,’ north-east Asia correspondent for The Australian Will Glasgow claimed.
Anthony Albanese (pictured) donned a green and gold Matilda’s jersey and a cap from his beloved South Sydney Rabbitoh’s while strolling around The Bund waterfront district in downtown Shanghai on Sunday morning
‘“This could never happen in China,” one told me.’
Others were baffled by his identity, with one assuming he was ‘maybe some actor or an entrepreneur or CEO’.
Mr Glasgow asked the Prime Minister if he had enjoyed his trip, to which he laughed and said: ‘Yeah, it’s pretty good’.
Yaqiu Wang, research director at pro-Democracy organisation Freedom House, praised Mr Albanese’s ‘good diplomatic tactics’.
‘People in China are so accustomed to leaders being aloof and untouchable that when a leader acts like a normal person, it induces a lot of heartwarming feelings,’ Ms Wang said.
Ms Yaqiu also urged the Australian Prime Minister to raise the plight of the Uyghurs with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
On Sunday, Mr Albanese visited a trade show in Shanghai where many Australian products were on display. Beijing has lifted most of its punitive tariffs off Australian products, with only $2 billion worth remaining on products like rock lobster and meat from some abattoirs
The Chinese government has committed a series of ongoing human rights abuses against the ethnic Uyghur population in Xinjiang in the country’s north-west.
The abuses have been characterised by many international observers as genocide.
Many also accused Mr Albanese of channelling ex-Prime Minister John Howard who was so famous for his track-suited walks, the Questacon science museum in Canberra named one of its ‘Walks of Wonder’ after him.
Others were more critical of Mr Albanese’s globetrotting.
‘He is just a tourist with a list of countries he wants to see while the taxpayer is footing the bill,’ one wrote.
Mr Albanese is the first Australian Prime Minister to visit China since 2016.
His trip comes on the 50th anniversary of Gough Whitlam’s landmark visit in 1973 – the first by an Australian Prime Minister to China – and at a time when relations between Beijing and Canberra are thawing slightly.
The Chinese Communist Party has lifted most of its punitive tariffs off Australian products, with only $2 billion worth remaining.
China is also reviewing its ban on Australian wine, worth $1.2 billion, and is expected to remove the sanctions at the end of a five-month process.
The remaining sanctions apply to rock lobster and some abattoirs.
China’s state media hailed the Prime Minister’s trip as heralding a new starting point for bilateral relations between the two nations.
Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrived at Hongqiao Airport, Shanghai for a three day visit to China
Mr Albanese is the first Australian Prime Minister to visit the country since 2016
On Sunday, Mr Albanese visited a trade show in Shanghai where many Australian products were on display.
He said he would not rule out backing China’s application to join the 12-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
‘What we’ve said is any country must demonstrate that it can meet the high standards of the agreement and that is the basis of that going forward,’ he said.
He flew to Beijing on Sunday evening where he will meet Chinese leader Xi Jingping at the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square.
Ahead of the high-level talks, he will visit the Temple of Heaven, as Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam did during his landmark visit to China in 1973.
Mr Albanese reaffirmed his pledge to raise the detention of Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who has spent more than four years behind bars over accusations of espionage.