Checkmating China

Though the U.S. and its allies look determined to challenge China’s rapid advancements and ascendancy, yet the geo-strategic environment may not give them much leverage to fulfil their ambitions out of schadenfreude.

By Reema Shaukat | February 2022

Indo Pacific is the new buzzword in strategic circles as many developments are taking place in that context. The area spanning from the eastern shores of Africa and Middle East to Pacific Ocean is gaining focussed attention of the US and its allies ostensibly to check Chinese economic and military influence. To forge ahead this agenda, various such alliances as Quad and AUKUS have also been formed and are primarily aimed at checkmating Chinese overtures and outreach.

The Quad is a security dialogue between the US, Australia, India and Japan. It is a sort of quasi-military alliance, more tilted towards non-military cooperation, however, aspirations for freedom of navigation at sea exhibit militaristic vibes. It is so far not structured like a typical multilateral organisation and it also does not provide for collective defence. Nonetheless, the conduct of joint military exercises named ‘Malabar’ appears to be a show of unity and diplomatic cohesion. The member states have also shown inclination to expand the membership. Australia, the UK and the U.S. have formed a security alliance called AUKUS. It mainly allows for provision of nuclear-powered submarines by the US to Australia, which is one of its kind acts after such facility has only been extended to the UK up to now.

The tussle between the US and China is aggravating while subjecting allies as well as regional countries to a unique dilemma. It is yet another reminiscence of the Cold War era when the countries were in jeopardy to side with eastern or western bloc. While the Cold War was typically militaristic in nature, this time geo-economics tends to be the main thrust. China’s economic clout is unmatched. China’s perseverance and sobriety in handling the international affairs is also unparalleled, which is complimentary to its economic might. How are countries around the world expected to respond to this new geo strategic reality is a million dollar question. However, certain indicators reveal a picture not very sombre for China.

Ever since the Indo Pacific has come to global attention, nation states around the world are rallying their intentions to take part in the new development and become stakeholders. The US, the UK, European nations and the Indo-Pacific countries consider themselves to be genuinely concerned about the situation with most of them claiming to have notions against the China’s phenomenal rise as a global power. Be it in the name of freedom of navigation, upholding of international laws, Chinese economic outreach or be it territorial issues emerging in the Pacific Basin, all are being taken seriously by the countries located even thousands of miles away. After all, it keeps them relevant in international affairs.

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The writer has interest in international politics and South Asian security dynamics. She is associated with the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad and can be reached at reema.asim81@gmail.com

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