Australia and America in lockstep on China, US diplomat says

1 April 2021

I think we're committed as allies to working together, not only in making our militaries interoperable and functioning well together but also in strategic planning.

Australia and the United States are working together on contingency plans for the potential scenario of a war with China over Taiwan and other possible flashpoints in the Indo Pacific, according to a senior American diplomat. 

The most senior US diplomat in Australia, Charge d'Affaires Michael Goldman, spoke with Professor Rory Medcalf from The Australian National University (ANU) for the latest episode of National Security Podcast.   

"I think we're committed as allies to working together, not only in making our militaries interoperable and functioning well together but also in strategic planning," Mr Goldman said.  

"And when you look at strategic planning, it covers the range of contingencies... of which Taiwan is obviously an important component."   

Mr Goldman said the US had "enormous respect" for Australia in terms of its leadership role in the Indo Pacific during the past year, in terms of calling for a COVID-19 investigation and standing up to economic coercion from China.  

He said the US would not expect to have substantial improvements in its relationship with China, "while it's holding hostage the economies of our partner nations", such as Australia.  

The US would also not make trade-offs with China with regard to human rights, Mr Goldman said.  

"We're not going to say to China, 'we'll go easy on human rights if you agree to stick to the terms of our phase one trade negotiations'. We're just not going to do that," he said. 

Mr Goldman said the narrative that Australia relies on the United States for security, but relies on China for its prosperity was "attractive" but "kind of simplistic and it's fundamentally wrong".  

"We are actually the most consequential economic partner that Australia has, and we view economic security and more traditionally defined national security as part of the same kind of comprehensive whole - and that's what makes up the alliance going forward." 

In terms of the US role in the Indo Pacific, Mr Goldman said the region is a "geographic reality".  

"One thing that we're determined to do is we're not going to get out in front of our allies," he said.  

"In fact, we're going to move with them because that really is the secret sauce of our power in the Indo Pacific.  

"It's not a bilateral competition between the United States and China, I'd say it's a competition between two concepts of how the international order should be structured and what values should infuse the international order." 

Listen to this episode of the ANU National Security Podcast: https://play.acast.com/s/the-national-security-podcast