U.S.-China ‘Cold War-Like Blocs’ Doomed to Fail, Australia Warns

(Bloomberg) -- Australia urged China and the U.S. to avoid adopting a Cold War mentality that could damage both global security and the world’s economy.

“It is critical that U.S.-China relations do not come to be defined in wholly adversarial terms,” Defense Minister Christopher Pyne told the International Institute for Strategic Studies forum in Singapore on Monday. “Any division of the ­region into Cold War-like blocs is doomed to failure, since it would necessitate false choices between prosperity and security.”

Australia has long sought to balance ties with its biggest trading partner, China, and its most important strategic ally, the U.S. Their trade war has heightened concerns that nations may need to pick sides if the world’s two biggest economies fail to resolve their differences and reverse decades of gains from globalization with crippling tariffs.

Despite relying on the U.S. to counterbalance China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia hasn’t supported the Trump administration’s protectionist policies.

Pyne sought to reassure China, saying the world benefited from its continued growth. In prepared remarks, he made no mention of Australia’s decision to ban China’s Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. from supplying equipment for its 5G network -- something the U.S. is urging other countries around the world to do.

“There is no gain in stifling China’s growth and prosperity,” Pyne said. “This is not an agenda in any capital that I know. We are not interested in containing China.”

But he went on to urge Beijing to build trust by complying with international law in the South China Sea.

“The building and militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea, for instance, has not increased regional confidence in China’s strategic intentions. Instead, it has increased anxiety,” he said. “Resolving disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law would build confidence in China’s willingness to support and champion a strategic culture that respects the rights of all states.”

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