US opens new battlefront in Indo-Pacific - GulfToday

US opens new battlefront in Indo-Pacific


Joe Biden. File

The Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) has emerged as the new security alliance with the United Kingdom and United States to equip Australia with nuclear submarines. Though US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison have not named China, it is implied that the Americans want to build a new battlefront in South China Sea.

The Chinese have predictably responded to the development by warning that the new formation will give rise to an arms race and destabilise the region. Coming as it does on the heels of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan last month, it seems that it is a psychologically compensatory act for the American ego. It is also the view of President Biden that America’s national and security interests are more at stake in the Indo-Pacific than in Central or West Asia.

America perceives China as the chief adversary, both on the ideological and military front. The irony lies in the fact that the United States as well as Australia are connected to China in an intricate manner in terms of the economy. Australian companies, despite irritants, look to China for business opportunities, and America is unable to resist the lure of Chinese goods.

With its growing economic clout, it was inevitable that China would flex its muscle in the South China Sea, and this translates into military belligerency. Taiwan remains the bone of contention with Beijing claiming that it is part of the One China policy. It is a moot point whether Beijing would resort to military action to take control of Taiwan and whether the Americans would be ready to go to war with China over Taiwan. Right now, the China-Taiwan relations are thriving on the economic front with prosperous Taiwan investing in China. For Taiwan, China is a lucrative market. However fragile and even precarious, both China and Taiwan would want to maintain the status quo. The Americans standing up for the independence of Taiwan then becomes a mere pretense. It is necessary to remember that from 1949, when the communist took control of mainland China, to 1972 when Richard Nixon made the historic trip to China, it was Taiwan which was the permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and it was counted as part of the Powerful Five (P5) along with the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union (now Russia) and France. Ever since its displacement in 1972, Taiwan has hung on as it were on the edge.

International experts have been referring to the New Cold War between the United States and China, more than a quarter century later after the old Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union had ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Whatever may be fluctuations in the power tussle between America and China, it is quite unlikely that communism would collapse in China the way it did in Russia.

China has embraced the capitalism and market economy nearly 45 years ago, and it has emerged as a powerful economy in the global market. Soviet Union was a military power to reckon with, it was never an economic power that China is today. There is also the fact that America’s economic clout is relatively diminishing. This makes the power tussle between the Big Two, China and America, a different kind of contest.

There will be no clear winners or losers. Through its Belt Road Initiative (BRI), China is spreading its influence in the same way that America did through economic aid in the 1950s and 1960s. It seems that America is forever on the look out for rivals, if not enemies, though President Biden has declared American distaste for forever wars.

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