'Close partner': US's fierce threat to China over Australia feud

The US has once again offered its support to Australia, warning China it will stand in unison against ongoing economic coercion.

On Thursday (local time) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made one of the clearest declarations yet that the Biden administration will support Canberra's rigid resolve to the increasingly-feared threat Beijing poses in the Indo-Pacific.

"I reiterated that the United States will not leave Australia alone on the field, or maybe I should say alone on the pitch, in the face of economic coercion by China," Blinken said at a press briefing with visiting Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a news conference. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has thrown his support behind Australia in its economic feud with China. Source: AP

"And we've made clear to the PRC how such actions targeting our closest partners and allies will hinder improvements in our own relationship with China," Blinken said, using the acronym for the country's official name.

The remarks echo Biden's Indo-Pacific co-ordinator Kurt Campbell's comments to The Sydney Morning Herald in March, where he stated ties between the US and China woud not improve if Beijing continued to target a "close and dear ally".

China has imposed a series of trade sanctions on Australian exports ranging from wine to coal as the two countries tensions have worsened in recent years.

China angered by Australia's 'unethical' moves

And while Australia sees the moves, which have been the result of a series of public diplomatic spats, as unjust, taking China to the World Trade Organisation over sanctions on barley, Beijing has its own economic grievances with Canberra.

China’s Deputy Head of Mission in Australia Wang Xining recently told the National Press Club Australia's 2018 decision to "unethically" block Chinese telecommunications company Huawei's 5G network was done so to protect the US's technology dominance.

"We have seen too many incidents over the past few years [where] China's interest has been hurt," he said.

Canberra, pictured left, and Beijing, right, have repeatedly clashed over Chinese investment in Australia. Source: Getty
Canberra and Beijing have repeatedly clashed over Chinese investment in Australia. Source: Getty

Australia also utilised newly-enacted laws which allow the federal government to veto state-made deals with foreign entities.

Victoria's deal with China's Belt and Road Initiative was blocked last month, prompting a wave of anger from the CPC.

A Chinese Embassy spokesperson in Canberra called the move "provocative" while issuing yet another daunting threat.

"It is bound to bring further damage to bilateral relations, and will only end up hurting itself," they said.

Former trade minister Simon Birmingham's struggles to secure a phone call with Chinese counterparts has been highly publicised, with recently appointed trade minister Dan Tehan faring no better.

Beijing last week suspended all activity under a bilateral economic dialogue with Australia.

A robust Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly vowed it will not kowtow to Beijing's demands, and will not step back from stances his government holds on a series of matters including Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan – all of which China says are internal matters and ones that Australia does not need to comment on.

On Thursday, Ms Payne once again reiterated Canberra's position.

"We won't compromise on our national security or our sovereignty [to develop constructive ties] and we'll continue to act to protect that," she said.

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