US-China Relations Updates
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Be careful what you wish for: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has staged a coup by securing a deal with the US and the UK for his country to source nuclear-powered submarines in the face of one China at a time. more assertive. This is not a simple gun deal. The trio presented it as a defense pact, dubbed Aukus, which instantly prompted Beijing’s condemnation. All three allies will benefit from the agreement. But the price will further increase the temperature due to the tensions that are already latent with China.
The time is certainly ripe for President Joe Biden, after the debacle of the Afghanistan withdrawal. Notes Biden’s commitment to regional alliances to counter China; next week he will host the Quad, dubbed the Asian NATO, which comprises India and Japan, as well as the United States and Australia. After all, this is what Biden expressly views as the main geopolitical threat to American interests. Equipping a key U.S. ally in China’s backyard with the latest underwater technology and long-range missiles is one way to respond to the threat posed by Beijing’s 14 operational nuclear submarines to strategic points and trade routes. key in the Indo-Pacific.
For the UK, an enhanced arms deal on the other side of the world fulfills its commitment to a post-Brexit global future and is consistent with its ‘turn’ to the Indo-Pacific and its current entente with Australia. Greater cooperation with the UK’s oldest allies (Biden specifically referred to the alliances of the three countries during the wars of the last century) is a welcome symbolism for the Conservative party.
But doubts persist, especially about the extent to which the UK and Australia are willing to accept the commercial and strategic consequences of antagonizing a China that sees the pact as an explicit threat. The Trump administration showed how fickle American foreign policy could be; the current president may be committed to Aukus, but that does not guarantee that his successor is. Meanwhile, new subs may not even be ready in the next decade. Biden also did the alliance no favors when he seemed to forget Morrison’s name, turning to thank “that ‘Down Under’ guy” during the virtual press conference: less Aukus, more awkward.
Even more uncomfortable is where the pact leaves the trio’s relationship with France, with which Australia previously signed a 50 billion Australian dollar ($ 36.6 billion) deal for a fleet of conventional submarines. That deal, reaffirmed by Morrison just two months ago, will now be broken. Unsurprisingly, that has stung France. He complains that the United States, in seeking closer ties with one ally, has distanced itself from another. The analysis is correct, but it is a sacrifice that Biden apparently believes is worth making for greater security in Asia.
There are trade-offs in turning down France for both the US and the UK, particularly when it comes to handling the threat from Russia. NATO’s purpose, so undermined by recent events in Afghanistan, now needs to be reaffirmed. Annoying Paris could also have direct consequences for Washington’s efforts to restrain Beijing. An investment treaty between the EU and China that the Biden administration does not like has been shelved, but could still be revived.
However, perhaps China should reflect on the more important issues. While it is true that the pact risks stoking paranoia in Beijing, regional powers, from Delhi to Tokyo to Canberra, are now steadily tightening ties with the United States. That in itself should prompt an examination of conscience on China’s frequently belligerent words and actions. Beijing’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy comes at a price.