Exclusive: The Australian government has welcomed the Biden government’s initial stance on China. US Ambassador Arthur Sinodinos said it was on the right track to « agree with where we were ».
Sinodinos, one of a select group of dignitaries invited to Joe Biden’s Reduced Dedication Ceremony at the Capitol, also praised the « Pitch Perfect » swearing-in ceremony.
Mr Biden has pledged to spend his first few days winding down some of Donald Trump’s key policies.
Concerns that the US may have eased its pressure on China were allayed when Tony Blinken, Mr Biden’s candidate for Foreign Secretary, said Tuesday he supported Mr Trump’s muscular stance.
« If we look at China, there is no doubt that it is the greatest challenge a nation state faces the United States, » Blinken said in his Senate confirmation hearing.
Mr Sinodinos welcomed the statement, saying it was consistent with Australia’s leadership in taking over China last year.
« The general stance of Blinken’s comments and other things we’ve heard is going to be pretty strong and pretty consistent with where we’ve been, » Sinodinos said.
« To China, what happened here in the US, with both Democrats and Republicans, throughout the political establishment … they have been invaded by reality.
« What we all thought China was going to happen didn’t happen. It has taken a more authoritarian turn. So the system here is now more focused on the emergence of China in a negative way and the need to compete with China. »
Mr Blinken had said that while he disapproved of the former president’s blunt methods: « I believe that President Trump rightly chose a tougher approach for China. »
Mr Sinodinos said he expected the Biden government to be « fairly strategic » and continue to support Australia.
« We got up (to China) because we had to stand up because problems violated our national sovereignty or our national interest, » he said.
« The point I’ve always told Americans is that we basically got up. It wasn’t because one day we woke up and decided, ‘We’re going to stab the panda in the eye.’
« It was because of certain things that happened, but it was principled and what we saw with the Biden administration is that they understand, they understand the basis on which we did what we did. And I think they’re going to be pretty strategic in their approach. »
Sinodinos, whose personal diplomacy was restricted by social distancing during his first year in office due to the coronavirus pandemic, said he welcomed the opportunity to attend Mr Biden’s inauguration.
Three weeks before the day after a violent mob stormed the Capitol after being encouraged to march there by Mr Trump, the event would help calm a troubled America, he said.
« I think he would be very happy with this speech when it comes to summarizing his mission, if you want what he was committed to.
« The challenge now, of course, is to translate that into action … to address the issues that are at the center of so many issues that are worrying people here. »
Compared to several key allies, Australia had a close relationship with the Trump White House and Mr Sinodinos expected it to continue.
« When I look at the relationship between Australia and the US, we did well under the (former) government and avoided some of the things that might have happened to other countries, » he said.
« We were able to move some of our agendas forward. I think we gave them a little head start over China, and they appreciate that without being in any way arrogant.
« I think we pushed this forward in many ways with some of the actions we took early on about China. »
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