China fires a verbal missile at Australia, UK and US pact

Trilateral defense alliance is aimed at promoting ‘stability’ and stopping China’s bullying in the Indo-Pacific

There were eery echoes of the Cold War as Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States rolled out a special security pact to combat China.

For President Xi Jinping’s ruling Communist Party, the aptly-named AUKUS defense partnership announced earlier this week was nothing less than “ideological prejudice.”

He was wrong. Cold War 2.0 is more about advanced technology than ideology.  

Even though China was not mentioned by name at the virtual unveiling of the trilateral defense alliance, Comrade Xi’s regime was the main suspect.

“Beijing will see this as part of US efforts to forge coalitions aimed at pushing back against China, and they aren’t wrong,” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told the South China Morning Post.

“The Chinese need to recognize that this assertive behavior is drawing democratic countries to cooperate in new ways to defend their interests,” she said.

What the AUKUS pact means:

  • Australia will join the nuclear-powered submarine club and scrap a deal for French-designed vessels.
  • The subs will be built in Adelaide in close cooperation with the UK and the US.
  • The tri-nation agreement will also cover research and development in advanced sectors.
  • They include the fields of artificial intelligence and quantum technologies.
  • Cyber security will be another area of cooperation.
  • The decision to form the democratic club is aimed at countering China’s growing military presence in the Indo-Pacific.

What was said: “As the first initiative under AUKUS … we commit to a shared ambition to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines. This capability will promote stability in the Indo-Pacific and will be deployed in support of our shared values and interests,” a statement released by Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, UK PM Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden said.

Reaction to the news: “[Countries] should not build exclusionary blocs targeting or harming the interests of third parties. In particular, they should shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice,” Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for China’s embassy in Washington, said in a media statement.

Mind games: “Washington is losing its mind, creating antagonism and destruction beyond its control … No matter how Australia arms itself, it is still a running dog of the US. [Yet,] who is more capable of withstanding the global chaos? China or them?” state-run Global Times barked in an editorial

Delve deeper: The South China Sea and the broader Indo-Pacific might be global “hotspots,” but Taiwan is considered “the most dangerous place on Earth,” The island democracy is also being harassed by China in the shape of a high-tech PLA Navy.

Arrogant adversary: “When you have a strong military, it provides a backdrop of deterrence that gives countries the confidence to resist bullying. Part of the problem is that Beijing has gotten rather arrogant,” Matt Pottinger, who served as deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration, told the Associated Press news agency.

Trade war: China could retaliate by imposing an import ban on Australian raw materials. Beijing has already used targeted tariffs on other goods such as wine, beef and coal.

Iron fist: “If China just stopped importing iron ore, that would be a disaster for Australia. But it would essentially mean China would have to shut much of its own economy as well,” Shane Oliver, the chief economist at AMP Capital, told the Reuters news agency.

China Factor comment: News of the trilateral defense agreement broke as the European Union announced plans for a “Global Gateway” to rival China’s US$1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative. The move aims to take a massive bite out of Beijing’s hardline “Wolf Warrior” foreign policy and its flagship infrastructure and high-tech project.