The suspended death sentence handed to Australian writer Yang Hengjun in Beijing on Monday is unlikely to derail Australia-China ties but will test the limits of Canberra's push to put relations back on track after years of tensions, analysts say.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she was "appalled," while observers expressed shock at the severity of the sentence for Yang, an Australian citizen born in China, three years after a closed-door trial on espionage charges. Yang was detained as ties worsened in 2019. But hopes of his release had been fueled by a recent thaw, including the freeing of Australian broadcaster Cheng Lei shortly before Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited Beijing in November.

He was the first Australian leader to go to Beijing since 2016, after relations had soured over Chinese telecoms company Huawei, espionage allegations, Australia's push to investigate the origins of COVID-19, and military tensions in East Asia.