The Cold War of the Pacific: AUKUS and China

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The AUKUS Pact is a security alliance created in the Asia-Pacific Region with the cooperation of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America (USA). The alliance commits to the supply of nuclear submarines to Canberra by Washington and London.[1] As a matter of fact, in today’s conjuncture, when the global security equations are starting to be read through the Asia-Pacific, it can be said that this association is mainly aimed at surrounding China and restricting the activities of the Beijing administration in the South China Sea. Considering that North Korea is also an important military threat in the region in question, it can be argued that this cooperation creates an area of operation and influence for the West and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Considering that Australia is also an actor with a Western perspective in the geopolitical and geostrategic sense, even though it is located in the east, it is usual for AUKUS to make Beijing feel significant security concerns. The increase in the tension between the West and China over Taiwan, in particular, is a factor that increases the size of the rivalry between AUKUS and China. For this reason, it can be suggested that there is a “Cold War” deconflicting between these two actors in the Asia-Pacific Region.

In this context, it is very important that the US, UK and Australia conduct joint air exercises in the Nevada Desert and beyond to simulate high-level combat operations against Chinese warplanes.[2] Because the joint military exercises of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia can be said to create a regionally strong Western conjuncture due to both the creation of the AUKUS Pact and the direct targeting of China by these countries.

It is known that the pact in question not only increased the Western influence in the region, but also included the aim of encircling China. For this reason, it can be stated that the current tension in the region has increased and this has made the region increasingly a playground for the rivalry between the West and China.

It can be said that the alliance of the said actors over the opposition to Beijing has been making Beijing more uncomfortable day by day and has led to a more proactive policy. Because the increase in pressure being tried to be established through Taiwan and the development of Western relations, especially Washington’s relations with Taipei, will be a violation of China’s “red line”, as Beijing calls itself. As a matter of fact, it is known that China aims to unite with Taiwan by 2049, the centenary of its foundation, at the latest.[3]

At this point, it can be stated that the USA is trying to accelerate the process through both its relations with Taiwan and AUKUS, and that Beijing aims to increase the probability of failure by forcing China to take a military action before it is fully prepared.

Besides all this, the presence of countries with a Western perspective, such as Japan and South Korea, also increases the pressure on China. Because NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Japan and South Korea on January 29, 2023, and during these visits, “threats from China and North Korea” were discussed.[4]

The development in question is extremely remarkable when read together with Japan’s claims to join AUKUS. As a matter of fact, taking into account Japan’s rising military expenditures, its policies to expand and enlarge its defense capacity, its relations with Western states and the military agreements it has implemented, and its hardened rhetoric towards states such as China, Russia and North Korea, Japan is also a part of AUKUS. It has been claimed that the name of the Pact will be expanded as JAUKUS.[5] It is predictable that the fact that such a situation is real will increase the pressure on China and Beijing’s discomfort with the pact in question.

In this context, the increasing influence of the West in the region is not only China; It can be predicted that it will disturb North Korea as well. This is also likely to strengthen the possibility of a hot conflict in the region in the coming period.

As a result, the AUKUS members and China are geopolitically regional, but in terms of their effects and causes, they are in a global Cold War. It can be argued that both sides will continue to increase the level of competition and a hot conflict may occur in the region over both Taiwan and the South China Sea in the future. Despite all this, it is unclear whether Washington and NATO would want such a conflict in the region.

[1] “What is the Aukus alliance and what are its implications?”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 23.03.2023).

[2] “U.S., Uk and Australia Carry Out China-Focused Air Drills”, The Business Standard,, (Date of Accession: 23.03.2023).

[3] “China’s Plans to Annex Taiwan Moving ‘Much Faster’ Under Xi, Says Blinken”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 23.03.2023).

[4] “As Nato Chief Visits South Korea and Japan, China Will Be High on Agenda”, The South China Morning Post,, (Date of Accession: 23.03.2023).

[5] “Japan Joining Aukus: the ‘Logical Choice’, but Would It Be a Full Partner In the Alliance?”, The South China Morning Post,, (Date of Accession: 23.03.2023).

Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan Gülten, 2021 yılında Yalova Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden “Amerikan Dış Politikası” başlıklı bitirme teziyle ve 2023 yılında da Anadolu Üniversitesi Açık Öğretim Fakültesi Dış Ticaret bölümünden mezun olmuştur. Halihazırda Marmara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda Tezli Yüksek Lisans öğrenimine devam eden Gülten, lisans eğitimi esnasında Erasmus+ programı çerçevesinde Lodz Üniversitesi Uluslararası ve Politik Çalışmalar Fakültesi’nde bir dönem boyunca öğrenci olarak bulunmuştur. ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Araştırma Asistanı olarak çalışan Gülten’in başlıca ilgi alanları; Amerikan Dış Politikası, Asya-Pasifik ve Uluslararası Hukuk’tur. Gülten, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.