The past months have seen Australia-China relations reach their lowest point in history. That decline was brought about in Canberra's decision to join the United States in seeking to curtail China's economic and political rise, particularly during the final year of the Trump administration.
The cost has been huge for Australian exports, given China has long been its biggest trading partner, and has since the summer played hardball as it holds all the cards in the trade war, unleashing barriers and sanctions resulting in severe collateral damage on everything from seafood to coal to barley to wine to beef, and tourism sectors - along with hitting some other commodities, even timber.
And now Australia says it's ready and willing to resume dialogue with Beijing. On Thursday Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced at a press conference while standing alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken: "Australia seeks a constructive relationship with China we stand ready at any time, amongst all of my counterparts and colleagues, to resume dialogue."
Great to meet with Foreign Minister @MarisePayne today to discuss our ongoing commitment to the health, security, and prosperity of the #IndoPacific. We look forward to celebrating the 70th anniversary of #ANZUS alongside our friend and ally Australia later this year. #USwithAUS pic.twitter.com/rTQyZG0JFh— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 13, 2021
She underscored further while meeting her US counterpart in D.C. that Australia is "open, clear, consistent" on the number of immense challenges it faces with China.
And Blinken responded by assuring its ally that the United States will not leave Australia "alone" in the face of China's aggressive economic coercion.
"I reiterated that the United States will not leave Australia alone on the field, or maybe I should say alone on the pitch, in the face of economic coercion by China. That’s what allies do. We have each other’s backs so we can face threats and challenges from a position of collective strength," Blinken said.
Payne had followed up further with saying her country "seeks a constructive relationship with China" and that "We stand ready at any time, amongst all of my counterparts and colleagues, to resume dialogue."
"But we have also been open and clear and consistent about the fact that we are dealing with a number of challenges. We welcome the clear expressions of support from Washington as Australia works through those differences. It is hard to think of a truer expression of friendship," the top Australian diplomat added.