July 30, 2020

Washington sees in Canberra the independent ally it needs

By Richard Fontaine

The just-concluded Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations demonstrated strong alliance ties, and not only because Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds flew through a global pandemic to take part.

For all of the natural focus on global health and regional development, and with nary a word about the Middle East in the joint statement, it was Chinese assertiveness that concentrated ministerial minds this year. And it was quickly clear that Australia’s new, first-mover role is unique among American allies.

Many in US policy circles today see Australia as a canary in the Chinese coal mine – a middle-power democracy facing new political, diplomatic and economic pressure from Beijing.

Four years ago, I spent an extended time in Australia just as the US presidential race was heating up. At the time, worries about China predominated in policy circles but not yet in public opinion, and private sector people mused about balancing their American security partner with a Chinese economic one.

Read the full article in the Australian Financial Review.

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