The importance of the "frank and open" talks between Richard Marles and China's Defence Minister, General Wei Fenghe, on the weekend can be summed up in two aphorisms. The first is that "one swallow does not make a summer". The second is that "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".
While some may be tempted to read the possibility of an early rapprochement between Australia and China into the discussion, which came after an exchange of letters between China's Premier Li Keqiang and Anthony Albanese last month, that is far too much to expect or even to hope for.
The reality is that China, having discovered Australia will not blink despite almost three years of Beijing blocking all attempts at high-level communications, was always going to have to walk back its petulant and counterproductive posturing at some point.
The PRC's senior leadership, including President Xi Jinping, would be well aware of just how badly attempts to bully and coerce Australia have backfired.
Instead of bringing an isolated Canberra to heel with economic punishments, provocative military actions, and threats of more of the same, they have strengthened this nation's position - and diplomatic standing - to a startling degree.
Who would have thought, when China first tried to slap Australia down following the call for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID, it would lead to America rallying to our side to a degree not seen since World War II, the supercharging of "the Quad", the negotiation of AUKUS and the nuclear submarine program?
Then, to make matters worse, incoming Foreign Minister Penny Wong did much to put the brakes on Beijing's push to develop stronger economic and security ties with members of the Pacific family, by conducting a long overdue charm offensive in the region within days of her swearing in.
In view of all this, and perhaps in the misguided belief the Albanese government may be a softer touch than the Morrison administration, Beijing's mandarins appear to be using the changing of the guard at Parliament House as either an excuse or an opportunity to take a very small step back.
General Wei's willingness to meet with Mr Marles was all the more remarkable in that it followed a tough speech by the Defence Minister in which he condemned China's activities in the South China Sea: "Chinese militarisation of features in the South China Sea needs to be understood for what it is: the intent to deny the legitimacy of its neighbours' claims in this vital international waterway through force," he said.
Arguably even more significant than the talks between General Wei and Mr Marles was a speech delivered by the Chinese ambassador, Xiao Qian, to the national conference of the Australia-China Friendship Association on the weekend.
Mr Xiao said China viewed relations with Australia from a long-term perspective and was committed to working together.
"China-Australia relations are also at a new juncture of development, facing many challenges and huge opportunities," he said.
"China ... is committed to conducting friendly exchanges and cooperation with the Australian side for mutual benefits and win-win results."
This is quite different to the "wolf warrior" rhetoric to which Australia has been exposed in recent years.
While there is still much uncertainty about what happens next, the fact lines of communication have been opened raises the possibility of a more mature and nuanced relationship between Australia and China.
As Winston Churchill once famously observed: "Jaw, jaw is better than war, war."
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