Whereas the previous episode looked at the early weeks of the Biden administration, this week Allan and Darren examine the new trajectory of US-China relations. A theatrical public session grabbed the headlines when senior officials met in Alaska, but the readouts from the closed door meetings were more positive. What should we take away from the public drama?
Within a few days of that first meeting, the atmosphere became tenser with the EU joining the US, UK and Canada in sanctioning certain Chinese officials over human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Beijing was furious, and retaliated with sanctions against EU and UK individuals and entities, including academic researchers and think tanks (after recording, Chinese sanctions were also announced on individuals in the US and Canada). Was this a reciprocal response, or were the Chinese escalating?
With ratification of an investment agreement between the EU and China before the European Parliament, the sanctions dispute may end up demonstrating how the “adversarial” dimensions of the China’s relationship with the West can spill over and undermine a “collaborative” enterprise, to use Secretary Blinken’s formulation. And given China’s disdain and vitriol towards any criticism of its human rights record, what can the West hope to achieve in this domain?
While Australia did not impose its own sanctions, it supported the effort in a joint statement with New Zealand. Allan and Darren mull over Australia’s own dilemma regarding human rights and China, as well as other news on the relationship. Australia’s Ambassador in Beijing, Graham Fletcher, made some very pointed comments to an Australian business audience, describing the trade disruptions as “vindictive”. Meanwhile, Canberra received support from an unexpected source, the Secretary General of NATO, former Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg, who said China “had behaved very badly against Australia”.
As the podcast draws to a close, Allan and Darren consider the outcomes from the Quad leaders’ meeting, which for Darren are a useful indication of the type of international cooperation that could become the norm in the future. Finally, with former Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann winning his campaign to be elected the next Secretary General of the OECD, Allan discusses the behind-the-scenes effort that would have gone into the campaign, and the significance of his success for Australia.
We thank AIIA intern Dominique Yap for research and audio editing today, and thanks also to Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.
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The Dismal Science podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/the-dismal-science/id1214066345
“Patrick Deneen says liberalism has failed. Is he right? | The Ezra Klein Show”, 1 October 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tuG4kqKCd8