Senior Asian adviser to US President Joe Biden said China’s campaign of economic sanctions against Australia had failed and predicted Beijing would reconnect with the federal government on Australia’s terms.
- Campbell said China’s trade sanctions aimed to bring Australia “to its knees”
- He believes that will change and that China will re-engage over time to Australian terms
- The diplomat also addressed AUKUS, saying “several” US allies have asked to collaborate
White House Indo-Pacific adviser Kurt Campbell 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”.
“I firmly believe that over time China will re-engage with Australia. But it will re-engage, I believe, on Australian terms,” he said.
“I think China’s preference would have been to break Australia. To bring Australia to its knees… I don’t think it’s going to play out that way.
While China’s tariffs and informal trade barriers have been very damaging to some Australian industries – particularly wine and lobster exporters – a large majority of the effectively stranded goods from China have been redirected to others. markets.
Campbell said China respects “strength” and that Australia’s resolve in the face of economic sanctions will strengthen its position vis-à-vis the Chinese government.
He also said that Biden “briefly” touched on China’s economic coercion on Australia when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping last month, suggesting he was on a list of Chinese activities. ” concerning “the American president.
“President Biden was very clear and animated about what we had seen in Australia, [the] frontier [conflict] with India, all the things that I mentioned, and I just said ‘we were worried’, ”he told the Lowy Institute.
“We are concerned about some of these steps and what they signal with regard to China.”
AUKUS fuels sense of ‘excitement’ among allies
Mr. Campbell answered several 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 willingness to build eight nuclear-powered submarines using American and British technology, the framework is also being used to foster broader cooperation on a range of other defense technologies.
Mr Campbell said there was a sense of “excitement” about this broader cooperative agenda and said “several” US allies had asked if they could work together on the framework, although it did not name individual countries.
“Many close allies came to us immediately afterwards and said, ‘Can we participate? “Can we engage? ” “, did he declare.
“And it’s a credit to Australia and Britain for insisting, yes, it’s not a closed architecture. It’s an open architecture. We want to work with partners in these key areas of military innovation as we move forward. “
Some Australian analysts fear that the drive to develop nuclear submarines with the UK and US will undermine Australian sovereignty, as future governments will remain dependent on US technology and expertise to operate the new ships. .
Mr Campbell insisted 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 while the three armies strengthened cooperation.
“I think what I am suggesting is that Australian sailors will have the option of serving on US ships and vice versa,” he said.
Taiwan debates a “very delicate subject”
He also refused to get caught up in the furious domestic political debate over Taiwan.
Last month Defense Minister Peter Dutton was criticized by Labor after saying it was “inconceivable” that Australia would not join the United States if there was a conflict over Taiwan.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Penny Wong has accused Mr Dutton of stoking tensions with China for political gain and of undermining the US policy of strategic ambiguity – where she refuses to say exactly how she would react to a Chinese invasion of the Autonomous Island.
Mr Dutton responded by accusing Labor of “moving away from the Australian-American alliance crab”.
But Mr. Campbell simply reiterated that current US policy towards Taiwan “has not changed” and that the Biden administration still strives to ensure that Taiwan has “the appropriate defensive articles in place to be able to deter the aggression”.
“I just want to stress that this is a very delicate matter. 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 determined, determined and clear in its messages, we can maintain peace and stability and secure the status quo in the future.”