China’s coercion takes ‘tremendous toll’ on Australia, says US

WASHINGTON (AFP): The United States voiced solidarity Thursday with Australia, saying it suffered from China’s “coercive” diplomacy after the US ally angered Beijing by scrapping a major infrastructure deal.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Australia makes its own decisions but that the country has “borne a tremendous toll” from actions by Beijing.

“We continue to stand with the people of Australia as they bear the brunt of the PRC’s coercive behavior,” he told reporters, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

Australia’s federal government on Wednesday pulled Victoria state’s participation in China’s massive infrastructure-building Belt and Road Initiative, a signature project of President Xi Jinping to expand influence.

Australia said that the deal was inconsistent with the country’s foreign policy, prompting Beijing to warn of “serious harm” to relations. In a shift in tone from the hawkish campaigns of former president Donald Trump, whose administration spoke in Cold War terms of rallying allies against China, President Joe Biden’s administration declined to comment directly on Australia’s decision.

Price said that relations with Australia were about “shared values” and not China. “We know that our partners around the world are going to have relationships with Beijing that may look slightly different than the relationship that we have. That’s OK,” he said.

The United States under both Biden and Trump has seen growing global competition with China, which has been increasingly assertive on multiple fronts including in military moves at sea and in building infrastructure abroad.