Australia hails Biden’s China stance
Exclusive: The Australian government has welcomed the Biden administration's initial stance on China, with US Ambassador Arthur Sinodinos saying it was on track to be "consistent with where we've been".
Mr Sinodinos, who was one of a select crowd of dignitaries invited to Joe Biden's scaled-back inauguration ceremony at the Capitol, also praised the "pitch perfect" swearing-in.
Mr Biden has pledged to spend his first days unwinding some of Donald Trump's key policies.
Concerns this may have included the US stepping back its pressure on China were allayed when Mr Biden's nominee for Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, said on Tuesday he supported Mr Trump's muscular posture.
"As we look at China, there is no doubt that it poses the most significant challenge of any nation state to the United States," Mr Blinken said in his Senate confirmation hearing.
"We have to start by approaching China from a position of strength, not weakness."
Mr Sinodinos welcomed this statement and said it accorded with Australia's leading role in taking on China over the past year.
"The overall stance from Blinken's comments and other things that we've heard is going to be pretty strong and pretty consistent with where we've been," Mr Sinodinos said.
"On China, what's happened here in the US, both with the Democrats and the Republicans, in the political establishment as a whole … they've been mugged by reality.
"What we all thought was going to happen to China hasn't happened. It's taken a more authoritarian turn. And so the system here has now become more focused on the emergence of China in a negative way and the need to compete with China."
Mr Blinken had said that while he didn't agree with the former president's blunt methods: "I believe that President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China".
Mr Sinodinos said he expected the Biden administration to be "quite strategic" and to continue to support Australia.
"We stood up (to China) because we had to stand up, because of issues that were infringing on our national sovereignty or national interest," he said.
"The point I've always made to the Americans is that we stood up on principle. It wasn't because we woke up one day and decided: 'we're going to poke the panda in the eye'.
"It was because of certain things that were happening, but it was principles-based and what we could see happening with the Biden administration is that they get that, they understand the basis on which we've done what we've done. And I think they'll be quite strategic in their approach."
Mr Sinodinos, whose in-person diplomacy during his first year in office has been limited by social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, said he had welcomed the opportunity to attend Mr Biden's inauguration.
Coming three weeks to the day after a violent mob stormed the Capitol after being encouraged to march there by Mr Trump, the event would help to soothe a troubled America, he said.
"The atmosphere was calm, it was dignified," Mr Sinodinos said.
"I think he would be very satisfied with that speech in terms of summing up his mission, if you like, what he's dedicated himself to.
"The challenge now, of course, is to translate that into action … addressing those issues which lie at the heart of so much that's troubling people here."
Compared to several key allies, Australia enjoyed a strong relationship with the Trump White House and Mr Sinodinos expected this to continue.
"If I look at the relationship between Australia and the US, we did well under the (former) administration, avoided some of the things that perhaps happened to other countries," he said.
"We were able to advance on a number of our agendas. I think we gave them a bit of a lead on China and they appreciate that without being sort of, you know, arrogant about it.
"I think we actually led on that in many ways with some of the actions we took early on in relation to China."
Originally published as Australia hails Biden's China stance