The Guardian • Issue #2092

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  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2092

Who is the target of the AUKUS alliance? The answer is explicit in all the writing on the subject and what all the leaders of AUKUS have said: it is China. In other words, this is a containment of China policy with the South China Sea and the Taiwanese Strait as the key contested oceanic regions. (By the late 1940s and early ’50s, the US government had put into practice a policy of “containment,” that is, a strategy based on reliance on overwhelming military superiority to block the expanding influence of the USSR and the other socialist states of Eastern Europe.)

Positioning US naval ships including its nuclear submarines armed with nuclear weapons makes Australia a front-line state in the current US plans for the containment of China. Additionally, it creates pressure on most Southeast Asian countries who would like to stay out of such a US versus China contest being carried out in the South China Sea.

But China is not only the biggest importer of Australian goods, but also its biggest supplier. In other words, if Australia is worried about the safety of its trade through the South China Sea from Chinese attacks, the bulk of this trade is with China. So why would China be mad enough to attack its own trade with Australia? For the US it makes eminent sense to get a whole continent, Australia, to host its forces much closer to China than 8,000 - 9,000 miles away in the US. Though it already has bases in Hawaii and Guam in the Pacific Ocean, Australia and Japan provide two anchor points, one to the north and one to the south in the eastern Pacific Ocean region.

It makes sense only if we understand that Australia now sees itself as a cog in the US wheel for this region. And it is a vision of US naval power projection in the region that today Australia shares. The vision is that settler colonial and ex-colonial powers – the G7-AUKUS – should be the ones making the rules of the current international order. And behind the talk of international order is the mailed fist of the US, NATO, and AUKUS. This is what Australia’s nuclear submarine deal really means.

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