China has appointed a prominent international affairs expert as its new consul general to Brisbane, Australia ’s third-largest city. Ruan Zongze arrived in the Queensland capital on Wednesday, according to the Chinese consulate. Ruan, 56, is the former vice-president and deputy Communist Party chief of the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) in Beijing. He is the fifth Chinese consul general to Brisbane and will be responsible for business, education, culture and tourism matters in Queensland – Australia’s second-largest and third-most-populous state. In a speech published on the consulate’s website, Ruan said he felt “a deep sense of responsibility” taking up the post this year, when China and Australia mark 50 years of diplomatic relations. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue to promote and deepen exchanges and cooperation between China and Queensland at all levels and in all fields, and to bring more sunshine to further enhance the relationship between Australia, China and Queensland,” he said. Unlike most Chinese diplomats, who usually climb the career ladder within the foreign ministry, Ruan has spent much of his working life at the CIIS. The think tank is, however, run by the ministry and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has described it as an “incubator” for Chinese foreign policy. It is not Ruan’s first overseas posting – he was second and then first secretary at China’s embassy in the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2000, and he served as minister-counsellor at the embassy in the United States from 2007 to 2011. His new role comes as Beijing is seeking to diversify its diplomatic pool as part of a push for greater influence on the world stage. Last month, Sun Haiyan – a veteran of the party’s International Liaison Department – took up the ambassador job in Singapore, a choice seen as potentially helping to strengthen Beijing’s ties with the city state’s ruling party. Ruan’s move to Brisbane also comes as relations between China and Australia have deteriorated, after then-prime minister Scott Morrison called for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus in April 2020. Beijing was furious and imposed trade sanctions on Australian products such as wine, coal and barley while accusing Australia of aligning with the US to counter China in the region. After being sworn in as Australia’s new prime minister last month, Anthony Albanese has played down the possibility of a reset in relations with the Chinese government, saying Beijing must first lift sanctions on a wide range of Australian exports. China is Australia’s largest trading partner and the biggest customer for iron ore, its largest export earner. In 2018, Ruan called for Australia to “recalibrate its China policy” after then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull had called for a reset of relations. “Australia has always been a member of the West due to its traditional culture, political system and values, yet it is isolated overseas and has strong economic and trade ties with Asia-Pacific countries, particularly China,” he wrote in a commentary in state-run tabloid Global Times . After the Aukus defence pact between Australia, the UK and US was announced last year, Ruan told PLA Daily that it reflected Washington’s “unilateral and narrow” security view. “The trilateral alliance presupposes a hypothetical enemy and diverts resources to confront the hypothetical enemy, which is also a manifestation of Cold War mentality,” he told the official military paper in October.