Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo
The repercussions of the AUKUS still reverberate even one month after the announcement of the tripartite agreement between US, UK, and Australia.
A new alliance of three English-speaking countries, which is centered on the US and UK providing nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, will tilt the military balance of power between US and China toward the former’s advantages for the rest of the century. It might even grow into the core element of a new international security framework in the Indo-Pacific region.
The question is why Australia has made up its mind in such a decisive choice which put itself firmly and clearly in an anti-China military coalition.
Australia, as a country located in Asia and Oceania, is innately part of the economic zone which is dominated by China or Chinese. Australia is known as one of the most dependent economies on China among the Anglo-Saxon or British Commonwealth countries. It’s been considered to be more lenient to China’s assertive and aggressive behavior compared with US, Japan or EU countries since economic stakes are high in keeping cordial relationship with China.
The situation where it has to choose between US and China was what Australia has been fearing and kept avoiding.
Why, then, did is make a drastic change and choose one sides? Everyone is curious.
The answer seems to be clear. China’s strategic error in its bullying of small countries.
In recent year, China singled out Australia as a weak chain of the US camp and an easy target of attack, tying to change Australia’s policy by slapping tariffs on Australian imports and imposing economic sanctions its industries.
The policy of bullying backfired and let Australians abandon the hope of living in Chinese economic sphere with prosperity and dignity. It run to the shelter of the safety provided by its “kindred” nations, UK, and US.
Above all, indulgence in the “Warrior Wolf” diplomacy insulting Australians publicly, left only negative impacts. It evoked the memory of the “kowtow diplomacy” in which western diplomats and representatives were forced to kneel down before the sublime Emperor of China as if worshipping the God.
The fourteen-point document deliberately leaked last November demanded Aussies to succumb to China unilaterally and unconditionally, as if it were an announcement by High Commissioner to colonial subjects.
AUKUS agreement has its own disadvantages. It might have alienated France by cancelling unilaterally the submarine deal between Australia and France. US might lose France and continental Europe if grievances of France will not be dealt with properly.