Australian PM’s China Visit: Strengthening Bilateral Ties

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese began a four-day visit to China yesterday. This visit to Beijing and Shanghai, the first by a Prime Minister from the island-continent to China since 20216, comes after years of estrangement between the two countries.

Australia called for an international investigation into the origin of the Coronavirus, first detected in China at the end of 2019. In 2020, it banned the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from a call for tenders for the construction of the network. national 5G.

In response, China imposed high tariffs on key Australian exports, such as barley, beef and wine, that same year. It also stopped buying important raw materials, including coal, from Australia. Many of the tariff barriers have, however, been gradually lifted since Labor returned to power in May 2022.

Thus, Beijing reopened its market to Australian coal last March, then lifted prohibitive taxes on barley in August. As it is announced a possible elimination of customs duties of 220% on bottled wine within five months. On October 11, Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei was released after more than three years in detention.

Australia constitutes an important support for the United States in its strategy to contain China’s ambitions in the Asia-Pacific region. And it was before the Australian Parliament that the American president at the time, Obama, officially announced, on November 17, 2011, the implementation of the so-called “pivot” strategy which reflects the rebalancing of the American presence towards Asia. Based on the three Ds, diplomacy, development and defense, this strategy consists of the deployment of more than half of the American fleet in the Asia-Pacific, the strengthening of partnerships in the military field with allies in the region and rapprochement with Burma, Indonesia and Vietnam. On this occasion, Barack Obama declared that “the United States is a Pacific power and we are here to stay”.

Aukus, Quad and the “Five Eyes”

Tensions in relations between the two countries rose a notch in 2021, when Australia announced its accession to the trilateral Aukus agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom. In this context, the three countries launched, last March, the cooperation program concerning nuclear submarines, as part of their alliance called Aukus. According to Canberra, this project will cost nearly $40 billion over the first ten years. “We are putting ourselves in the best possible position to face, together, the challenges of today and tomorrow,” declared the American president on this occasion.

He implicitly referred to China by saying that the Aukus alliance must ensure that “the Indo-Pacific region remains free and open”. The attack submarine program, which aims to reshape the Western military presence in the Pacific, will be divided into three phases, according to the White House. There will first be a phase of familiarization with Australia, which does not have nuclear-powered submarines or military or civilian nuclear technology. The objective is to deploy, from 2027 and on a rotation principle, four American submarines and one British submarine on the Australian base in Perth (west).

As a second step, Australia will purchase three US Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines, with an option for two additional ones. They must be delivered from 2030. In the third and most ambitious stage of the program, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom will join forces for a new generation of attack submarines called SSN -Aukus. The new ships, of British design and incorporating advanced American technologies, will be built and deployed by the United Kingdom and Australia. They are to be delivered from the late 2030s and early 2040s.

China has criticized this program which it sees as a “wrong and dangerous path”, violating the objectives of the Non-Proliferation Treaty with “a serious risk of nuclear proliferation”. “These three countries are increasingly embarking on a wrong and dangerous path, for the sole benefit of their geopolitical interests and with total disregard for the concerns of the international community,” a spokesperson criticized to the press on March 14. words of Chinese diplomacy, Wang Wenbin.

This is the ninth time Biden has met with the latter as prime minister. The first meeting took place in Tokyo, hours after Albanese was sworn in as head of government in May last year for a summit of leaders of the strategic partnership with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), alliance of the United States with Australia, India and Japan, hoping to counter Beijing’s ambitions for economic and military domination.

Canberra is also a member of the so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance with Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. In October 2022, the island continent concluded a security treaty with Japan and then with Vanuatu in December. At the end of July 2023, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, visited Australia, the last stop of a tour in the Pacific intended to strengthen Washington’s position in the region.

This article is originally published on elwatan-dz.com

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