Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the ‘AUKUS’ security pact on Thursday. A joint statement from the three signatories claimed the alliance was created to “ensure stability” in the Indo-Pacific region. However, AUKUS has been interpreted by Chinese officials as an act of aggression, with China’s embassy in Washington accusing the countries of a “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice”.
The first act of AUKUS is for the US to transfer nuclear propulsion technology to Australia, enabling the construction of a fleet of nuclear powered submarines. The decision to transfer nuclear technology to Australia has angered the French government because it has caused the cancellation of the $90bn agreement between France and Australia that currently sees France provide Australia with diesel powered submarines. France has recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia. The French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has criticised AUKUS, saying that “We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” and that “the American choice to exclude a European ally and partner … shows a lack of coherence.”
UK national security adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove has emphasised that AUKUS is about more than a class of submarine, describing the pact as “perhaps the most significant capability collaboration in the world anywhere in the past six decades”. AUKUS comes after a year in which Western military aggression against China has been greatly expanded. The US currently has 400 military bases and 375,000 personnel surrounding China whilst the UK has sent its Queen Elizabeth II carrier strike group into the South China Sea earlier this year. The US is also funding separatist movements in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and has increased arms sales to the Taiwanese government. The Biden administration has gone as far as arranging a public meeting between the U.S. State Department representatives and their Taiwanese counterparts, breaking the agreement that the US made with China in the 1970s that the US would avoid all official contacts with Taiwan, which China considers to be part of One China.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the US has enjoyed what’s commonly referred to as the ‘unipolar moment’ – allowing it to attack countries on all but one of the inhabited continents over the last thirty years. China’s rise and the partnerships with multinationals that has allowed it to acquire advanced technology, along with the country’s peaceful foreign policy has therefore begun to threaten what Western officials refer to as the ‘rules based international system’, effectively meaning locking in the existing imperial power relations.
As Xi Jinping has said, “The sovereignty and dignity of all nations, whether big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, must be respected; their internal affairs brook no interference, and they have the right to independently choose their social system and development path.”
Alec Smith, is a member of the YCL’s South and West Yorkshire branch