One of Joe Biden’s top advisers says China is trying to “pull Australia out of the pack,” but the diplomatic freeze and the attack on Australian exporters are only prompting Canberra to deepen its ties with Washington.
Kurt Campbell, the White House coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, raised doubts about any imminent improvement in the China-Australia relationship, saying he sees “a toughness” in Beijing’s approach “that appears inflexible.”
China has blocked ministerial-level talks with Australia for at least the past year, amid a deterioration in the relationship over a number of issues, including the Morrison’s government’s first public calls for a Covid-19 investigation and criticism of China for the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong and human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Over the past year, Beijing has implemented tariffs and other trade actions against Australian export sectors, including barley, wine, seafood and charcoal, and has argued that the Australian government “bears full responsibility” for the breakdown of the relationship because he has a “cold was mentality and ideological bias.”
Addressing a webinar hosted by the Asia Society, Campbell said there were “a lot of theories about how China conceptualizes Australia.”
“I think from our perspective, it at least seems [on] a certain level that there is an attempt to take Australia out of the pack, and to try to see if they can affect Australia to completely change the way it sees itself and sees the world, “Campbell said late at the Tuesday night Australian time.
Campbell said that the president of the United States and other senior officials had I tried to clarify “That we are not going to leave Australia in the field, that is not going to happen.”
“And if anything, what we’ve seen in the last six to eight months is a deepening and deepening relationship between Canberra and Washington,” he said.
Campbell noted that the Morrison administration and the Biden administration “were not like-minded governments” but had shared “a tremendous sense of common purpose” about the challenges they faced in the region.
Campbell said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had been “the main supporter” of the Quad group, which also includes Japan and India, moving forward with leadership-level meetings for the first time this year.
Morrison had also encouraged the United States to “substantially step up our game, both in the Pacific and in Southeast Asia.”
The previous assumption in diplomatic circles was that China would rarely attempt to take on more than one major foreign policy challenge simultaneously, but that was no longer the case, according to Campbell.
China now faces many countries simultaneously, Campbell said, while engaging in “much more assertive action across the Taiwan Strait” and deploying “coercive economic action against various states, primarily Australia.”
Campbell said at the event that he was not sure whether China had “the strategic thinking to go back to a different kind of diplomacy toward Australia at this point.”
“I see little performance, and if anything, a growing sense of nationalism and a sense of grievance and a determination to continue to prosecute various assertive cases internationally across the board,” Campbell said.
Campbell asked Kevin Rudd, a former Australian prime minister and one of the Asia Society event moderators, if he shared the view that “we were basically settling in the long term in terms of tensions between China and Australia.”
Rudd replied: “I spoke on a Chinese forum on Saturday and just said that I thought it was useful for both capitals, Beijing and Canberra, to just hit the pause button for a few months, rhetoric wise, and see what can be done. do to stabilize again. “
On Tuesday, the Australian government denied undermining China’s plan to roll out Covid vaccines in Pacific countries after Beijing lashed out at Canberra’s alleged “callous” and “irresponsible behavior.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping marked the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party last week with a speech warning against “self-righteous preaching” or intimidation by foreign forces.
Xi said that anyone who tries to intimidate, oppress or subjugate China “will find themselves on a collision course with a steel wall forged by 1.4 billion people.”