US President Joe Biden’s top Asia adviser says China’s economic punishment campaign against Australia has failed and has predicted that Beijing will rejoin the federal government on Australia’s terms.
- Sir. Campbell says China’s trade sanctions were aimed at bringing Australia “to its knees”.
- He believes this will change and that China will eventually re-engage on Australian terms
- The diplomat also addressed AUKUS, saying that “several” American allies had asked to cooperate.
White House Indo-Pacific adviser Kurt Campbell has told the Lowy Institute that Beijing’s coordinated sanctions against a number of Australian products – including coal, barley, wine, timber and lobsters – were designed to bring Australia “to its knees” .
“I fully believe that China will eventually re-enter Australia. But it will, I think, re-enter into Australian terms,” he said.
“I think China’s preference would have been to break Australia. To drive Australia to its knees … I do not believe that will be the way it comes to play.
While China’s tariffs and informal trade barriers have been very detrimental to some Australian industries – particularly wine and lobster exporters – a large majority of the goods actually blocked from China have been diverted to other markets.
Sir. Campbell said China respected “strength” and that Australia’s determination in the face of economic sanctions would strengthen the country’s hand vis-à-vis the Chinese government.
He also said that Mr Biden “briefly” raised China’s economic coercion against Australia when he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month, suggesting it was on a list of “concerning” Chinese activities. which the US President had rejected.
“President Biden was very clear and lively about what we had seen in Australia, [the] limit [conflict] with India, all the things that I have mentioned and that basically said “we were worried,” he told the Lowy Institute.
“We are concerned about some of these steps and what it signals in terms of China.”
AUKUS nurtures the feeling of ‘excitement’ among allies
Sir. Campbell asked 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 efforts to build eight nuclear-powered submarines using American and British technology, the framework is also being used to promote broader cooperation on a range of other defense technologies.
Sir. Campbell said there was a sense of “excitement” over the broader co-operation program, saying “several” US allies had asked if they could co-operate under the framework, although he did not mention individual countries.
“Many close allies have come to us immediately after and said, ‘Can we join?’ “Can we get involved?” He said.
“And it is to the credit of Australia and the United Kingdom that they insisted, yes, this is not a closed architecture. It is an open architecture. We want to work with partners in these key areas of military innovation as we move forward.”
Some Australian analysts have expressed concern that the focus on developing nuclear submarines with Britain and the United States will undermine Australian sovereignty because future governments will remain dependent on US technology and expertise to operate the new boats.
Sir. Campbell insisted that Australian sovereignty would not be “lost”, but said there would be more “strategic intimacy” between the US, Australia and the UK under the AUKUS as the three military strengthened co-operation.
“I think what I am proposing is that Australian seafarers will have the opportunity to earn on American vessels and vice versa,” he said.
Taiwan debate is a ‘very delicate matter’
He also refused to be drawn into the furious domestic political debate over Taiwan.
Last month, Defense Secretary Peter Dutton was criticized 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, meanwhile, accused Mr Dutton of creating tensions with China for political gain and undermining US policy with strategic ambiguity – refusing to say exactly how it would react to a Chinese invasion of the autonomous island.
Sir. Dutton responded by accusing Labor of “crabbing away from the Australian-American alliance”.
But Mr Campbell simply reiterated the existing US policy towards Taiwan “has not changed” and that the Biden administration was still working to ensure that Taiwan had “the appropriate defense articles to deter aggression”.
“I just want to emphasize that this is a very delicate matter. We understand the delicate role it plays in the relationship between the United States and China,” he told the Lowy Institute.
“But we also believe that if the United States is focused, determined and clear in its messages, we can maintain peace and stability and secure the status quo in the future.”