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It is not normal for a US Secretary of State to appear on Sky News but – as Phil Rucker from the Washington Post pointed out at our Tuesday webinar – it is not normal for a Secretary of State to travel to Iowa either. Secretary Pompeo’s comments on the Victorian Government’s involvement with China's Belt and Road Initiative prompted a swift clarification from the US Ambassador to Australia, Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., emphasising the strong US-Australian alignment through the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance.
The theoretical potential for economic seduction from a single Australian state participating in the Belt and Road Initiative will likely remain a smaller risk than the non-theoretical economic coercion Beijing appears to be conducting through threats to Australian beef, barley and higher education. These tensions in the Australia-China-US relationship are what the United States Studies Centre will be exploring in-depth in our webinar on Thursday.
At the same time as Australia is being squeezed by China and nudged by a senior US official, activist pressure has been boiling over in the United States. The anti-lockdown protests may be more astroturf than grassroots, activism pushed from the top down. In this issue of the 45th, we look at how all of these different power dynamics are playing out in the United States and what it means for Australia.