Canberra delusional to think the China-US dialogue will focus on its woes
Published: Mar 17, 2021 02:09 AM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Even as Chinese and US officials are knocking down final details of a closely watched high-level dialogue on Thursday, reports of a US official suggesting the talks are linked to Australia made rounds among Australian and other Western media outlets. 

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, Kurt Campbell, a senior advisor to the US President Joe Biden, said that China's economic coercion of Australia "will be underscored in interactions in Anchorage later this week." Campbell went on to say that the US "has made clear that it's not prepared to improve ties with China while a close and dear ally is being subject to a form of economic coercion." 

Those words might bring some comfort and relief to some officials in Canberra that are desperately seeking to resume official contact with Chinese officials, especially over trade issues. However, it would be delusional to think that there would be any meaningful discussion about Australia, if it comes up at all, let alone help fix Canberra's self-inflicted misfortunes.

First of all, there are so many pressing and thorny issues in the China-US bilateral relationship to be covered at the two-day meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. The world's most consequential bilateral relationship is at its lowest point with a bruising trade war lingering. Would the talks on how to fix that and avoid further dangerous escalation be linked to grievances of a third country? That's not just silly but quite irresponsible and dangerous.

Yes, the world knows how close the US and Australia are. After all, it was Australia's role as the most savage accomplice of the US crackdown on China under former US President Donald Trump that has brought bilateral ties to a near frozen point.

And Yes, US officials might bring it up during the conversations. But would that change anything? Does that mean Chinese officials would have to listen?

Here are some clues from the Chinese side. Asked about Campbell's remarks on Tuesday, Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that both sides were consulting over the topics for the meeting and called for a "candid dialogue over issues of mutual concern."

"The Chinese side will also express our stance on relevant issues at the meeting," Zhao said. 

Certainly, both sides will have their own agenda for such a critical meeting. The US might have its own wish list but China will also have its agenda too, and it's almost certain that Australia is not on China's list of topics to be discussed after Canberra's words and deeds over the past several years.

Zhao also made that clear too, saying that China has already explained its views on the China-Australia relationship and that the current difficult situation was mainly because of Australia's wrong words and deeds in a series of issues related to China's sovereignty, security and development interests.  

"Australia is very clear about the right and wrong in this," he said.

Also, what should be clear to Canberra, is that the meeting will not help it right its wrongs.

The author is a reporter at the Global Times.

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