China’s increasingly aggressive military posturing and diplomatic ventures in the Western Pacific region continue to elicit strong rejoinders from regional powers, as well as the United States. The past week has not been particularly smooth sailing for Beijing. Australia’s decades-long effort to keep good relations with both the United States and China has ended. Thursday’s announcement of a security deal between the US, Australia and Great Britain that will eventually see Australia build and deploy nuclear-powered submarines means Canberra has chosen Washington over Beijing. To be fair, Sino-Australian relations have been trending downward for a long time. The COVID-19 pandemic and questions about the origins of the virus seem to have been the final nail in the coffin though.
The security deal’s completion has wasted no time in antagonizing China. On Thursday, China reacted angrily with a statement from the foreign ministry saying the blame for deteriorating relations “rests entirely with the Australian side.” Australia’s pivot towards the US undoubtedly seems like a stab in the back to China, which has invested years of effort in cultivating good trade and diplomatic relations with the Land Down Under. There will be no rapprochement between Australia and China for the foreseeable future, it would seem. Canberra has gone beyond the point of no return with its security deal with the US and Great Britain. Call it a rubicon moment of sorts for Australian foreign policy where Canberra has finally admitted its relationship with China has been decidedly one-sided and of benefit mainly to Beijing.
On the heels of the security deal, leaders from the four Quadrennial Security Dialogue nations are set to meet in Washington on 24 September. Countering China’s rise will undoubtedly be at the top of the agenda.