A defense expert told CNBC that an increasingly aggressive and assertive China has helped form a new trilateral security partnership between the United States, Britain and Australia.
The new partnership, announced Wednesday, aims to strengthen stability in the Indo-Pacific. The US and UK will help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, helping the Australian Navy counter Chinese nuclear-powered ships in the region.
The three countries rejected the idea that the partnership was specifically aimed at China.
Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank, said: “I can assure you that none of this could have progressed if the more aggressive and outspoken policies of Xi Jinping during the last half-decade or more had been in place. . CNBC’s “Street Science Asia” would not have been followed on Thursday.
Under Xi, China militarized the South China Sea, tightened controls over Hong Kong, threatened Taiwan and Japan, as well as financially punished Australia, Jennings said.
“China has a strategic problem in the region,” he said.
“I’m sure Beijing won’t like this development, but what are they expecting? It’s clearly going to happen that the resulting countries in the region will try to reinvent themselves to face China more aggressively, and it’s obvious that is exactly what happened with this announcement.
In response to the new security agreement, Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, Liu Pengyu, told Reuters that countries “should not create exclusion blocs that target or harm the interests of third parties. In particular, they should not build their own cold war ”. mentality and ideological prejudices should be eliminated.
RAND Corporation’s senior defense analyst Derek Grossman said China could use unilateral economic sanctions in response to the new security group.
“China has used it… as leverage in the past to punish Australia when it hears it. But China can do a lot of other things too. They are in the South China Sea, their army in the is. Can increase assertiveness. China Sea vs. Taiwan, “Grossman told CNBC’s” Capital Connection “on Thursday.
“Preventive effect” in the Indo-Pacific
Geopolitical experts have said Taiwan is the most dangerous flashpoint in the strategic competition between the United States and China.
Jennings said it was important to create “a strong deterrent effect” in the Indo-Pacific so that China would conclude that “it is not worth continuing a military game against Taiwan”.
Taiwan and mainland China are separated by the Taiwan Strait, which is only 160 km wide at its narrowest point. The ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing has never controlled Taiwan, but claims the island is a runaway province that should one day be reunited with the mainland – by force if necessary.
China has claimed Taiwan more aggressively, and this year there have been several breaches in Taiwan’s air defense zone by Chinese warplanes.
“Frankly, if the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia work together in a more powerful type of coalition relationship… the kind of relationship that you have succeeded in militarizing the South China Sea,” Jennings said.
The South China Sea is a resource-rich waterway and an important commercial shipping route that is reported to be worth billions of dollars in global trade each year.
Beijing claims almost all of the sea and has built military outposts on man-made islands it has built in these waters. Several Asian countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, also claim parts of the South China Sea as territory.
In 2016, a Permanent Court of Arbitration tribunal dismissed China’s claim as being legally unfounded – a ruling Beijing has ignored.
– CNBC’s Abigail Ng contributed to this report.