The world’s two largest economies have faced their own period of heightened geopolitical turbulence after the Trump administration accused China of intellectual property theft, imposed tariffs on more than $US360 billion in Chinese goods, made unsubstantiated claims of China spreading the coronavirus from a Wuhan lab and condemned human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
Australia’s relationship with Beijing has spiralled since 2018 after the Turnbull government blocked telecommunications provider Huawei from the 5G network over national security concerns. That decision along with foreign interference legislation, restrictions on multi-billion dollar business deals, independent media criticism of China’s policies and funding for think-tank research features prominently on a list of 14 grievances delivered by the Chinese embassy to the media in November.
The list followed trade restrictions on Australian seafood, coal, wine and half-a-dozen other exports throughout 2020.
Campbell’s comments came three days after the first Quad leader-level discussions between the US, India, Japan and Australia and as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Minister Lloyd Austin make their first overseas trip to the region.
Austin on Tuesday night labelled China a “pacing threat” for the United States as its military and economy grows in tandem.
“For the last two decades…while we were focused on issues in the Middle East, China has modernised its military,” he said in Tokyo.
“In addition to that, it has engaged in aggressive and in some cases coercive behaviour, and some of that behaviour has been directed against our allies in the region. Our goal is to make sure that we maintain a competitive edge over China or anyone else that would want to threaten us or our alliance.”
Foreign Minister Marise Payne was contacted for comment.