new figures show Canberra is in an election trap as Washington and Beijing do business – Community News
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new figures show Canberra is in an election trap as Washington and Beijing do business

The timing is important because of the motivations of each of the key actors in the election season. The US and China face significant domestic risks, both economies are slowing, Biden will focus on domestic infrastructure initiatives, stimulus packages and boosting US exports to stifle resurgent support for his predecessor Donald Trump.

Xi has to contend with the international spectacle of the Winter Olympics, fundamental weaknesses in the real estate and energy sectors, and an internal mission to imprison himself as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.

In this context, the three-hour meeting between Biden and Xi in November was the most substantial between the two superpowers in years. His goal? To lower the temperature and allow both leaders to focus more on their domestic priorities.

Australia is now doing its best to get temperatures back on track, despite continuing costs for producers.

Australian elections are always fought over the economy, but they also have another sharp edge: national security. In 2001 it was Tampa and September 11; in 2004 it was Iraq; in 2013 it was terrorism. In 2022 that will be China.


The campaign in China has already started. Defense Secretary Peter Dutton has wedged Labor on this issue by being provocative, provoking a hyperbolic response from China and then using the opposition as apologists for Beijing’s actions when Labor misinterprets the tenor, not the substance, of its policies. casts doubt.

This is an effective domestic political strategy, but it is a high-stakes, high-risk maneuver as the other two major powers involved move in the opposite direction.

Biden’s Indo-Pacific chief, Kurt Campbell, told the Lowy Institute on Wednesday that the US has been very careful about communicating to the Chinese that competition between the two superpowers can be peaceful. “It is essential that we create the mechanisms and the locations where the United States and China can take steps through avoidance, calculation to avoid misunderstanding, to build trust where necessary,” he said.

In March, Campbell stated that the US would not improve relations with China as long as Australia was subjected to economic coercion. On Wednesday, he praised Australia’s diplomatic resilience, but when he insisted on whether Biden mentioned China’s trade sanctions against Australia, he said it was part of a series of issues the US is concerned about, including China’s border disputes with India.


“The president just briefly mentioned the activities China was undertaking that, according to President Biden, were contrary to China’s interests,” he said. “So there was a period in our discussion where President Biden was cautiously trying to say that some of the steps China was taking, he said, were counterproductive.”

These are delicate discussions, ranging from nuclear weapons dialogues to tensions in the South China Sea, but the broad trend is one of de-escalation. Australia’s plight is in the margins. The White House has decried descriptions of the tensions as another “Cold War,” and for all their turmoil, China has been reluctant to formally and publicly embrace the reality that they are engaged in strategic competition with the Americans.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been outspoken on many issues, domestically his views are tinged with a dose of heritage preservation, but as president of the Asia Society and one of the few Australian politicians who still have channels back to Beijing, his views on China are more sought after internationally than at home.

“The bottom line is that the official class around Xi Jinping doesn’t want an unexpected unfavorable development for him in an election year,” Rudd said. The Sydney Morning Herald and The age. “And they can see enough happening in the economy and enough intensity in the security environments that are relevant to them to worry that one of those could become an uncontrollable factor.”

That doesn’t mean Beijing is going to zero, that means from eight out of ten to five out of ten for its relations with the US.

“I think there are enough similarities between the US government’s interests and where it landed in the next 12 months that they prefer that space too,” Rudd said. “They are not ready for a front to get completely out of control in my opinion. And I don’t think it’s in Biden’s best interest at this stage for the midterms to be on the brink of crisis.”

In this narrow window there is an opportunity for Australia, but it would go against any electoral instinct of the Morrison administration. It shouldn’t require a concession to Beijing, but it should resist the urge to talk more about China.

“If Australia were led by realists who see tensions between the US and China as a national security challenge rather than an electoral opportunity, we would simultaneously use this opportunity to kick things up a notch,” he said. rudd.


There is a precedent. In 2005, Japan condemned China’s actions in the Taiwan Strait, sparking anti-Japanese protests in Beijing and a diplomatic and economic chill between the two countries. After two years, Tokyo stopped the rhetoric, the relationship was thrown out of the fire, careful diplomacy through back channels allowed high-level contacts to resume, and in 2008 Hu Jintao became the first Chinese president to visit Japan in a decade.

History, as it can be in a one-party state, had become a dime.

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