It was a German courtesy visit: docking with the frigate Bayern in the Chinese port city of Shanghai on a six-month mission. Such a pause sends a friendly signal: although Berlin, like other Western countries, is strengthening its presence in the Indo-Pacific, but not with China as an enemy in mind.
The visit has been prepared for months, but last Friday Bayern suddenly became unwelcome. According to Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Berlin should first create the “appropriate atmosphere”, rather than “provoke incidents” in the South China Sea. Now China is the country that claims almost the entire sea over neighboring countries, pumping rocks and coral into military installations. Germany just wanted to sail through it calmly.
The fact that the new US defense pact Aukus with Australia and the UK had revealed the day before certainly played a role in the Chinese rejection. Byrne is now set to dock in the Australian port city of Darwin, which is also a US military base. And so Germany is sending Beijing a completely different signal.
This sailing schedule is a finger exercise on radical choices in the new Cold War, where staying neutral is becoming increasingly difficult. Those who are not with us automatically oppose, even though American and Chinese leaders don’t say it out loud.
And while the European Union sticks to a strategy in which China is neither a friend nor a foe, Australia has opted for US submarines, US long-range missiles and other weapons aimed at Beijing. Out of self-defense, and after a long hesitation: the economy is so dependent on China that Canberra is held hostage by the fear of clashes with Beijing. Appalled, US senators wondered in 2019 how their ally could do it Down “We lost.”
Australia once requested an independent investigation into the origin of the coronavirus and was immediately punished with a Chinese trade boycott. South Korea has had to endure years of Chinese anger over the installation of a US missile shield. That is why Malaysia first prevents it from asking Beijing to discuss the Aukus issue before Kuala Lumpur abandons its position. Indonesia, sandwiched between Australia and China, feels threatened by a potential arms race in the region.
For centuries, Asian countries have lived with China by infecting the country, or remaining silent while doing their own thing. Now, with Aukus, the contours of the US-China Championship war scenario loom. Smaller players such as Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore are silently thinking: Is this club a white, English-speaking country, which has nothing to do with the usual caution in this region, something you can count on?
“Biden doesn’t work with big traditional alliances, but he tries it with small groups: loose ties to groups of like-minded people. Oko is the first attempt at a ‘micro-orientation’ and that shake the world.”
Besides Aukus, there are two other American alliances against China. Five Eyes is a western company, in which intelligence services from Canada and New Zealand work with the Aukus trilogy. Only Asian countries are discussed in the Quartet, where they will also be seated in addition to Australia, Japan and India. Deepening military cooperation is on the agenda on Friday. This is music to the ears of India, which is exploiting US military technology.
India has become surrounded by Chinese military activity – a military base in Djibouti and economic expansion through strategically located ports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Cambodia. India witnessed it wistfully, until an old border dispute with China erupted last year. This deadly fight has damaged relations with Beijing so badly that New Delhi is now eager to join American initiatives against China’s advance.
For China, Aukus is a nightmare, forcing Beijing to rethink a strategy that has worked for years. China covered other countries with military and economic hegemony, or surrounded them with military and economic hegemony, but now this carefully constructed sphere itself is surrounded by a large circle of the United States and its agents. This encourages neighboring countries who want to be more assertive towards China, but do not dare to do so alone. For example, China’s adversary, Japan, recently conducted its largest naval exercise since 1993 and is increasingly talking about better protection for neighboring Taiwan, which Beijing wants to bring under Chinese rule by force if necessary.
Taiwan is the most dangerous hotspot in a region already riven at the seams of border disputes. Disagreements have been going on for decades, but Beijing has put them on edge one by one. Perhaps Aukus makes China realize it has overreached.
Theresa Fallon expects Beijing to wait and see, hoping that America’s coalitions of opportunity will collapse on their own. “The strategy that has always worked with China is to convince others that Beijing has no strategy at all, just wants to trade.”
Thus, a Chinese magician attack on countries at the crossroads of their choosing is expected in this geopolitical rivalry. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping will count his knots: Who can bring him to bolster a military alliance against the United States?
“Creator. Award-winning problem solver. Music evangelist. Incurable introvert.”