Last week in this column, I analyzed that the new “Axis powers” will be formed with China and Russia as the core, joined by other countries such as Iran and North Korea. In response to such a strategic situation, the U.S.-led Western countries must of course react to it, and thus a new “Allied powers” similar to that during World War II has gradually emerged. The most obvious move was the meeting between President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week on April 17.
In addition to the special significance of Biden choosing Japan as his first face-to-face White House summit with a foreign leader since taking office, the joint statement issued by the two leaders is of great relevance to the development of the entire international situation. Apart from the focus on the reference to Taiwan for the first time in over 50 years in this statement, which is already of great interest to the outside world, the following aspects should also be highlighted.
First, the two sides reaffirmed that one of their shared visions is a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” Second, the two sides specifically used the term “deterrence” as a means to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Third, the statement particularly mentioned that the U.S. restated its staunch support for Japan’s national defense in accordance with the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, using its full range of capabilities, including nuclear, if necessary. It also reaffirmed that the treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands, which is tantamount to underscoring the unbreakable U.S.-Japanese military alliance. Fourth, the two sides also mentioned in the talks that the U.S. and Japan have committed US$2.5 billion and US$2 billion, respectively, to accelerate the development and testing of 5G wireless networks and future 6G technologies, indicating that the two countries attach great importance to their future digital competitiveness and suggesting that they will cooperate closely to restrict China’s high-tech development.
This U.S.-Japan summit sent a clear message that in light of the challenges posed by China to the U.S. and its expansion in Asia through the Belt and Road Initiative, a future “Allied powers” will be formed with the U.S. and Japan as the pillars of all-around cooperation. Bearing in mind that such a confrontation between the “Allies” and the “Axis” will take place in the Indo-Pacific region, the existing mechanism of “quadrilateral security talks (Quad)” will also become an important anchor. In other words, in addition to the U.S. and Japan, the “Allied powers” will also include Australia and India.
For this new alliance, which is being formed with the prospect of a third world war, the attitude of the traditional coalition partners, the EU countries, is still unclear. NATO Secretary General recently said that NATO does not see China as a rival. This was such a shocking statement that the Atlantic Council, an American think tank known for its research on U.S.-European relations, openly criticized “NATO’s focus on China is too narrow.”
However, on April 19, the EU announced its latest “strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.” In addition to emphasizing the need to adhere to international law based on democracy and human rights, the EU still considers “cooperation” as a strategic priority and says it will take further steps to seal a comprehensive investment agreement with China.
In comparison, Britain, which has already left the European Union, seems to be more willing to join the fight against China. On March 17, the UK released its first post-Brexit foreign, security and defense policy, naming China as a “systemic challenge” to British democracy and the “biggest state-based threat.” To this end, the UK will increase its nuclear stockpile by more than 40% and strengthen its military and economic deployment in the Indo-Pacific region. The report also highlights that the relationship between the UK and China has changed because of the suppression of democracy and freedom in Hong Kong. China’s emphasis on subsidizing the expansion of specific industries and Chinese investment in the UK also raise security concerns for the UK. With the Indo-Pacific region increasingly becoming a central focus of global geopolitics, the long-planned deployment of British aircraft carriers to the Indo-Pacific will be implemented. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has also recently said that he wants to have a positive relationship with China, but will not sacrifice human rights and other values fundamental to democracy, and must take a “calibrated approach” to deal with Beijing.
At present, the core members of the future “Allied powers” are the U.S., Japan, Australia, India and the UK. It is believed that if a global confrontation does break out, the European countries, led by France and Germany, will eventually have to join this alliance.
(Wang Dan, founder of the think tank Dialogue China)
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