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Minggu, 01 November 2020

What's at stake for Australia at the US election - Sydney Morning Herald

Australia is exposed to rising tensions between the United States and China in the wake of this week’s presidential election, as the next administration in Washington DC faces a test of its power in the Pacific.

Security experts and former political leaders see a potential clash in the region whether US President Donald Trump or Democrat hopeful Joe Biden wins the presidential race, setting up a crucial role for other nations – including Australia – in keeping the peace.

But the scale of the challenge is disputed and some observers, such as former prime minister Kevin Rudd, said Chinese President Xi Jinping would “wait and see” how US policy developed on trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The Morrison government has strong ties with the Trump administration.

The Morrison government has strong ties with the Trump administration. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The Morrison government has factored the tensions into its planning as it prepares for either another volatile administration under Trump or a return to more orthodox foreign policy under Biden.

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While the government claims strong connections with the Trump camp, Australian ministers and officials have also met Biden advisers including Jake Sullivan, who was the policy director under Hillary Clinton when she was the US Secretary of State, Asian affairs specialist Kurt Campbell and foreign policy veteran Nicholas Burns.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Morrison government should prepare for the possibility that China could test Biden in the early days of his administration or clashed with Trump.

“I think a Biden administration would come as a relief to many people in the global community because it would be seen as more predictable, more consistent, more conventional; it would be seen as being a return to normal transmission,” Turnbull said.

Then US vice-president Joe Biden delivering a joint press statement with then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in July 2016.

Then US vice-president Joe Biden delivering a joint press statement with then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in July 2016. Credit:Wolter Peeters

“Trump has taken a much stronger line on some very important issues, including economic issues with China, including intellectual property protection and cyber espionage.

“However, I think his approach to China on trade lacks coherence. It is very hard to get a bead on what exactly he’s going to do next. And, of course, he thinks that’s great. But I don't think it helps American standing in the world – quite the contrary.

“Will China test out a new president? Yes, you have to assume they would. How they do it remains to be seen.”

Turnbull said he did not see any sign of China wanting to go further in the South China Sea, although Taiwan was “always a potential flashpoint” and had been one since 1949 when the Communist Party took power on the mainland.

Rudd said a Trump victory would embolden US rivals such as Russia and China, weaken US allies and therefore damage Australia.

“If Trump is re-elected, various US treaty allies around the world, anticipating a lack of commitment by Trump’s Republican Party towards that alliance structure, will begin increasingly to hedge their bets in their relationships with Russia in Europe and China in Asia,” he said.

“And that, I think, is of material relevance to Australia’s long term national security interests.”

“There’s a real danger that only Japan, Australia and perhaps the United Kingdom emerge with their bilateral security treaties with a second Trump administration fully intact while the others begin to unravel to one degree or another.”

Will China test out a new president? Yes, you have to assume they would.

Malcolm Turnbull

Rudd said a Morrison government should press the case for the next administration to commit to the Trans Pacific Partnership, the regional trade agreement Trump withdrew from in 2017 and Biden rejected in 2019.

Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said Australia should be ready for China to test the next administration.

“The most pressing issue of the day is in making sure that we don't find ourselves sliding to a conflict over Taiwan, you know, sometime in the first half of 2021,” he said. “I think there's a real possibility of that.”

Professor Hugh White, the emeritus professor of strategic studies at the school of international, political and strategic studies at the Australian National University, described Trump as “erratic” and Biden as a “conventional” in foreign policy approaches.

Biden was better for Australia for strategic reasons, he said, but he would not change the overall thrust of US policy to treat China as a strategic rival, with implications for conflict.

“Neither outcome looks very good for Australia. Biden is better than Trump, better for America and better for Australia,” Professor White said.

Biden is better than Trump, better for America and better for Australia. But Biden himself is a pretty weak candidate.

Professor Hugh White

“But Biden himself is a pretty weak candidate. And I think he would be a pretty weak president. And he doesn't have much of a platform to run on, except for the fact that he's not Donald Trump.”

At its simplest, the choice is about which leader Australia would prefer to have in the situation room of the White House when a crisis flares.

“It’s not that Biden would succeed in pushing back effectively against China and preserving American strategic leadership in Asia. I don't think he will,” he said. “But on the way out, he'll be much less likely to draw America into a war. And if a war breaks out, he'll be much less likely to allow that war to escalate to a catastrophic level. Whereas I think Trump is, and his team are, extremely dangerous in that regard.”

Trump Biden 2020

Understand the election result and its aftermath with expert analysis from US correspondent Matthew Knott. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald's newsletter here, The Age's here, Brisbane Times' here and WAtoday's here

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2020-11-02 04:11:00Z
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