The Economist Magazine 1st October 2021 Almost ten years ago President Barack Obama visited Australia’s parliament to announce a pivot to Asia. “ The United States is a Pacific power and we are here to stay ,” he declared. This week the White House will echo with similar sentiments , as the leaders of the Quad countries—America, Australia, India and Japan—gather in person for the first time. There will be talk of a “free and open Indo Pacific”, code for facing down an assertive China. The rhetoric will be familiar, but the reaction may not be: this time both friend and foe may actually believe it.
The reason is aukus, an agreement announced last week for America and Britain to supply Australia with at least eight nuclearpowered submarines. The deal has caused waves because of its huge size and because it caused an unseemly row with France, which had a submarine contract of its own with Australia that has now been abandoned (see Charlemagne).
This belies aukus’s true significanc e, which is as a step towards a new balance of power in the Pacific (see Briefing). In a region where alliances have sometimes seemed fragile, especially during the presidency of Donald Trump, aukus marks a hardening of American attitudes. It is a decades long commitment and a deep one: America and Britain are transferring some of their most sensitive technology . The three countries’ cooper ation promises to embr ace cyber capabilities , artificial intelligenc e, quantum computing and more besides.
For this the Biden administration deserves credit. And yet the de al still amounts to only half a str ategy. America’s relations with China involve more than a military standoff . In the search for coe xistence, America also needs to combine collaboration over issues like climate change with rulesbased economic competition. The missing parts involve all of SouthEast Asia, home to some of the countries most vulnerable to Chinese pressure. And here American policy is still struggling. The Economist Magazine 1st October 2021DOWNLOAD NOW