China is attempting to separate Australia from the herd through a diplomatic freeze, the US says.
Beijing’s targeting of Australian exporters, the White House’s Indo-Pacific coordinator says, has only strengthened Canberra’s connections with the US.
According to one of Joe Biden’s top aides, China is attempting to “separate Australia from the herd,” but the diplomatic freeze and targeting of Australian exporters has only served to strengthen Canberra’s relations with Washington.
China trying to ‘cut Australia out of the herd’ with diplomatic freeze, US warns
Kurt Campbell, the White House’s Indo-Pacific coordinator, cast doubt on any rapid change in China’s relationship with Australia, citing “a harshness” in Beijing’s approach that looks immovable.
China has been blocking ministerial-level talks with Australia for at least a year, owing to the deterioration of the relationship over a range of issues, including the Morrison government’s early public calls for a Covid-19 inquiry and criticism of China’s crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong and human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Australia denies using ‘plants’ to obstruct China’s spread of the Covid vaccination in the Pacific.
Beijing has imposed tariffs and other trade measures against Australian export sectors including barley, wine, seafood, and coal over the last year, claiming the Australian government “bears full responsibility” for the relationship’s breakdown due to its “cold war mentality and ideological bias.”
Campbell stated during a webinar hosted by the Asia Society that there are “numerous theories about how China conceptualizes Australia.”
“I believe that from our vantage point, it appears as though there is an attempt to separate Australia from the herd and to see if they can completely alter how Australia views itself and the world,” Campbell stated late Tuesday night Australian time.
Campbell stated that the US president and other senior officials have made it clear “that we are not going to abandon Australia – that is simply not going to happen.”
“And what we have seen over the last six to eight months is a deepening, intensifying relationship between Canberra and Washington,” he added.
Campbell highlighted that while the Morrison and Biden administrations were not ideologically identical, they shared a “tremendous sense of common purpose” in addressing the region’s difficulties.
Campbell stated that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been “the leading supporter” of the Quad grouping – which also includes Japan and India – proceeding with the first leader-level meetings this year.
Morrison also urged the US to “significantly improve our game, both in the Pacific and in south-east Asia.”
Previously, diplomatic circles assumed that China would rarely attempt to address more than one significant foreign policy concern concurrently, but Campbell asserted that this was no longer the case.
China was now confronting multiple countries concurrently, Campbell stated, while pursuing “significantly more assertive actions across the Taiwan Strait” and employing “economic coercive measures against a number of states, most notably Australia.”
Campbell stated at the event that he was unsure whether China possessed the “strategic foresight” to resume a different style of diplomacy with Australia at the moment.
“I see little yield and, if anything, a growing sense of nationalism and aggrievement, as well as a determination to continue prosecuting a variety of assertive cases internationally,” Campbell said.
Campbell inquired of Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister and one of the Asia Society event’s moderators, whether he concurred with the idea “that we were essentially settling in for the long haul in terms of China-Australia tensions.”
Rudd responded: “I spoke to a Chinese forum on Saturday and simply stated that I believed it would be beneficial for both capitals – Beijing and Canberra – to press the pause button on the rhetoric for a few months and see what can be done to re-stabilize.”
China’s foreign ministry cast doubt on the robustness of the United States’ backing for Australia. The ministry seizes on allegations that US exporters are increasing their supply to China in certain agricultural sectors where Australia has been subjected to Chinese trade sanctions.
“When a country acts as a cat’s paw for others, it is the people who pay for misguided government policies,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said Tuesday during a regular media conference.
Zhao stated that China will “not permit any country to benefit from doing business with China while leveling baseless accusations and slandering China.”
On Tuesday, a new cause of contention arose when the Australian government denied obstructing China’s intention to roll out Covid vaccinations to Pacific countries, following Beijing’s criticism of Canberra’s alleged “callous” and “irresponsible” behavior.
Xi Jinping, China’s president, commemorated the Chinese Communist party’s centennial last week with a speech warning against “sanctimonious preaching” or intimidation by foreign forces.
Xi stated that anyone attempting to intimidate, oppress, or subjugate China “will come face to face with a steel wall forged by 1.4 billion people.”