If you wanted to design an inexpensive strategy to narrow the operational horizon of one of the most important regional allies of the United States, then you should take a closer look at China maneuvers in the Pacific ocean, since Beijing has adopted a good strategic model, says Fergus Hanson in an article for the Australian edition of the Strategist.
China is preparing for a big game in the Pacific. It was reported that China is going to Finance a major regional military base in Fiji and explores the possibilities of creating a military base in Vanuatu. China apparently intends to renovate the four ports in Papua New Guinea, including the strategically significant island of Manus. In the period from 2006 to 2016, Beijing has allocated $1.8 billion in aid to the region, and the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei is interested in creating a network of underwater Internet cables in the region.
China's actions have led Australia in a state of extreme excitement, but can we call a reaction of Canberra is strategically effective? Australia quickly increased the amount of financial assistance in the southern Pacific, with $784 million in 2017-18, to $926 million in 2018-19 years, Australia will make the largest financial contribution in the framework of regional support. Canberra was forced to exceed the level of financial participation of China in the region due to military base of China in Fiji.
The Ministry of foreign Affairs and trade of Australia plunged into the undersea cable business, gathering a team to expand the submarine operating environment. The estimated cost of the project to lay undersea Internet cables is $97 million (two-thirds of the funding will come from budgetary aid). Also, an agreement was reached with Biketawa on the extension agreement in the field of security to counter unconventional threats.
All these steps correspond to the foreign policy promises of Canberra 2017 about the "greater intensity and ambition" in respect of regional policy. However, if you can call Australia's approach is effective from a strategic point of view?
More and more Chinese approach to expanding its influence in the Pacific, reminiscent of the methods of coercion inherent to the economic relationship between Australia and China. Beijing uses economic sectors that are the least interest to the Communist party of China (CPC), but great value for Australia to exert pressure on Canberra. For example, for the Australian economy a significant interest are tourists and students from China.
In the Pacific, China seems to have identified weaknesses in Australia, and now it is enough just to hint at the possibility of reconstructing one or another Pacific port, to bring Australia into a frenzy.
Debt diplomacy is another non-conventional weapons in service of the PRC. China is saddled with Pacific States by providing unaffordable loans, while opposing the desire of Canberra to accelerate the development of the Pacific region. When the debt load of the States of the Pacific will become critical of Beijing will have another lever of pressure on Canberra. In exchange for the debt relief China may require Australia to abandon regional plans or commitments for debt relief of countries of the Pacific ocean will fall on the shoulders of Canberra.
Business in the creation of a network of submarine cables is another means to divert a significant Australian resources. China, if it wanted, could create in the region a network of dozens of underwater Internet cables. Is Australia ready to spend hundreds of millions on the creation of an alternative underwater communication network?
On the one hand, the actions of Canberra's understandable since Australia is not interested in the fact that the adjacent territory was turned into a platform for China large military game. However, can we be sure that Australia efficiently spends its resources to counter the ambitions of China? In the long term there is a risk that operational horizon Australia from the global level to narrow to purely regional. If Australia is to capitalize on its immediate neighborhood, China will gain a strategic victory.
The action of China in the South China sea, the militarization of artificial Islands and intimidation of regional States do not Bode well. If Beijing will eventually succeed in the South China sea, he will almost certainly seek to expand its influence space. If Australia will focus on building collaboration with partners in the broader regional context, it could make a valuable contribution to the fight against assertive Chinese government, led by President XI Jinping.
Could Australia develop a more effective approach to the challenges facing Canberra in the Pacific? Australia, for example, could conclude an ambitious agreement with its neighbours, comprehensive cooperation Pact in the field of economy, education and security, which would have prevented the militarization of the Pacific and would enable Australia to maintain its foreign policy orientation, avoiding the trap of narrowing the focus of its attention to directly adjacent territories. Australia could establish a regional security Council for making decisions on issues such as debt diplomacy, protection of critical infrastructure and climate change.
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