The Guardian • Issue #2099

‘Squad’ of nations formed to confront and provoke China

Photo: pxhere.com – Public domain.

A new US-dominated bloc aimed at ‘challenging’ China is now almost complete. The grouping unites the USA, Japan, the Philippines, and Australia in what is being dubbed a new Quad group or alliance. The Pentagon likes to call it a ‘Squad’ of nations. It received some media coverage but the bigger story for the bourgeois press was the incident in the Yellow Sea involving a Chinese jet fighter and an Australian military helicopter. Each event tells a tale. The common denominator is the ceaseless demand to confront and provoke China.

The need to ‘challenge,’ and ‘confront’ China is at the very core of US foreign policy in the region. China’s growth, economically as a global power is central to imperialism’s venom. China’s prestige in the world is growing, and that infuriates the USA. Washington reacts as it always does. It flexes its muscles and seeks to intimidate and bully. It uses subservient states to help out and claims it is just after peace and a ‘rules-based order.’

The USA expects that this ‘emerging’ regional bloc will develop into a permanent grouping. The Philippines is being seen by America as an important element in its encirclement of China. Already US bases and missiles ring China. The Philippines simply draws the noose that much tighter. While preparing for this formal bloc arrangement, Western analysts describe a situation that allows for Manila to ‘borrow the strength’ of the other three nations. This is concerning.

Japan is a key part of the new arrangement. Gone is any reference to Japan’s ‘peace constitution.’ Japan is playing an increasingly muscular role in promoting America’s policies in the region.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin met with representatives of the new Quad group ahead of the announcement of this new military alignment. Its unofficial ‘nickname,’ Squad, has a layer of menace about it. It has decidedly military connotations, but that is not by chance.

Austin sought to portray this overtly threatening grouping in a benign, positive light. The need for such a bloc is, in his estimation, meant to make it clear that Beijing’s behaviour has been ‘irresponsible.’ It was a reference to disputes between China and the Philippines that have been played up in our media.

The central figure in the original Quad and the emerging Squad is the USA. While the roles of the other countries remain subsidiary, the power of the US in the region is enhanced. Washington is effectively making use of Australian territory, its military budget and its armed forces to serve  the US purpose. By incorporating the Philippines into the bloc, the USA’s military presence, through military bases in the Philippines, is further extended.

All of this, in the words of the US and its client states, supposedly ensuring free and stable waters. It’s all about maintaining international law and always about ensuring that the rules-based-order is observed. Any provocation, any arms build-up, any threat against China and by implication any threat to the peace and stability of the region is legitimate. If China responds to threats, then this becomes ‘proof’ of its belligerence and aggression. This was shown in the recent confrontation between the Australian Navy and a People’s Liberation Army jet in the Yellow Sea.

The dangerous game that the US and in this case, its staunch and unquestioning ally, Australia is playing was on show. The area is closely bordered by China, the DPRK and South Korea. The incident took place in ‘international’ waters, but the proximity to territorial waters of each of the three states remains a factor. The Australian ship and its helicopter were in the area in order to assist in enforcing a blockade on the DPRK. The ‘rules-based-order’ has declared that many goods must not be shipped into or out of the DPRK. The population of the DPRK are offered a choice; either rebel against their government or starve to death. Well done Australia for maintaining international norms of humanity and decency!

The diplomatic row over the Chinese fighter plane releasing flares to warn the helicopter away from entering Chinese airspace has been widely, if one-sidedly reported. Both Australia and China registered official protests about the incident. While it is never a simple matter to determine just what is what in such cases, it is worth remembering that the Australian naval presence is a long way from home. By contrast the Chinese plane was only moments of flying time from its territorial airspace.

Australian military doctrine has shifted in recent years. Any semblance of ‘defence’ in the Australian military is a long fading memory. The recently published Defence Strategic Review calls for the biggest shift in military policy since the end of WW2. In line with American anti-China thinking, the Review calls for an ‘impactful projection’ of force across the Indo-Pacific region.

Is maintaining blockades on the DPRK a legitimate use of Australian naval assets? Is it an example of our navy defending our shores? Is it an act of subservience to US dictates, regardless of the fact that the blockade is notionally a UN action?

Where do we find our navy, and our air force? They are operating often thousands of kilometres away from territorial Australia. Where do we find 60 per cent of the total US military? Not in the USA but in the Pacific region close to China.

Where do we find the Chinese army, navy and air force? Are they poised off mainland Australia or the USA? No, they are close to home. Do they have a ring of bases threatening anyone? No, they do not. Do we need any new alignments of belligerent states? No, we don’t. Do we need AUKUS, the Quad or now the Squad? Like a hole in the head.

What we do need is to give peace a budget, and protect our country from the real threat of Climate Change. We’re not going to get that under a government that operates as a working part of the US military.

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