US President Joe Biden’s senior Asia adviser says China’s campaign of economic punishment against Australia has failed and has predicted Beijing will re-contact the federal government on Australian terms.
Most important points:
- Campbell says China’s trade sanctions were designed to bring Australia “to its knees”
- He believes this will change and China will rejoin Australian terms over time
- The diplomat also addressed AUKUS, saying that “several” US allies had asked for cooperation
White House Indo-Pacific adviser Kurt Campbell has told the Lowy Institute that Beijing’s coordinated sanctions on a range of Australian products — including coal, barley, wine, timber and lobster — were designed to bring Australia “to its knees.” ” to bring.
“I am fully convinced that in time China will contact Australia again. But it will, I think, cooperate again on Australian terms,” he said.
“I think China would have preferred to break Australia. To bring Australia to its knees… I don’t believe this is the way it will turn out.
While China’s tariffs and informal barriers to trade have been deeply damaging to some Australian industries — particularly wine and lobster exporters — a large majority of goods actually blocked from China have been diverted to other markets.
Mr Campbell said China respected “strength” and Australia’s determination in the face of economic sanctions would strengthen its hand in dealing with the Chinese government.
He also said Mr Biden “briefly” addressed China’s economic coercion on Australia when he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month, suggesting it was on a list of “concerning” Chinese activities that the American president were deterred.
“President Biden was very clear and animated about what we had seen in Australia, [the] border [conflict] with India, all the things I’ve mentioned, and basically just said, ‘We were concerned,'” he told the Lowy Institute.
“We are concerned about some of these steps and what it indicates with regard to China.”
AUKUS stirs the feeling of ‘excitement’ among allies
Mr Campbell answered a number of questions about the AUKUS technology pact between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
While the main initiative pursued under the pact is Australia’s aim to build eight nuclear-powered submarines using US and British technology, the framework is also being used to foster broader cooperation on a range of promote other defense technologies.
Mr Campbell said there was a sense of “excitement” about that broader cooperation program and said “several” US allies had asked if they could work together under the framework, although he did not name individual countries.
“Many close allies have come to us, in the immediate aftermath, and said, ‘Can we join in?’ “Can we join in?” he said.
“And to the credit of Australia and Britain they insisted, yes, this is not a closed architecture. It is an open architecture. We want to work with partners in these important areas of military innovation in the future.”
Some Australian analysts have expressed concern that pursuing nuclear submarine development with the United Kingdom and the United States will undermine Australian sovereignty as future governments will continue to rely on US technology and expertise to operate the new boats.
Campbell insisted that Australian sovereignty would not be “lost”, but said there would be more “strategic intimacy” between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom under AUKUS as the three armies stepped up cooperation.
“I think what I’m suggesting is that Australian seamen get the chance to serve on American ships and vice versa,” he said.
Taiwan debate a ‘very delicate issue’
He also refused to be involved in the furious domestic political debate over Taiwan.
Last month Defense Secretary Peter Dutton was slapped by Labor after he said it was “unthinkable” that Australia would not join the United States if there was a conflict over Taiwan.
Shadow Secretary of State Penny Wong accused Dutton of fueling tensions with China for political gain and undermining US policy of strategic ambiguity — refusing to say exactly how it would respond to a Chinese invasion of the self-ruled island. .
Mr Dutton responded by accusing Labor of “crab running away from the Australia-US alliance”.
But Campbell simply reiterated existing US policy on Taiwan “hasn’t changed” and that the Biden administration was still working to make sure Taiwan had “the right defensive items to deter aggression.”
“I just want to underline that this is a very delicate issue. We understand the delicate role it plays in US-China relations,” he told the Lowy Institute.
“But we also believe that if the United States is purposeful, determined and clear in its messages, we can maintain peace and stability and secure the status quo going forward.”