Analysis – Tension between the US and China rises after Biden’s rapprochement with the UK and Australia

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President Joe Biden earlier this week announced an accelerated schedule for Australia to receive its own nuclear-powered submarines early in the next decade.

With that, the situation is increasingly tense between the United States and China, which has emerged as a central focus of the Biden presidency.

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That relationship has been heightened in recent weeks by a series of global events, from the dramatic crash of a Chinese spy balloon to the revelation that Beijing is considering arming Russia – all coming amid Chinese President Xi’s unprecedented consolidation of power. Jinping and a growing consensus in Washington about the risks it poses.

US officials readily acknowledge that tensions with China are higher than in recent years and that Beijing’s heated public rhetoric of late reflects the state of private relations.

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That’s why Biden’s multi-pronged China strategy has involved an attempt to normalize diplomatic relations, even as the US pursues policies like Monday’s submarine announcement designed to curb China’s global influence and military moves.

That effort to reopen lines of communication, especially between each country’s top military after the spy balloon incident, has shown no signs of progress, according to a senior administration official.

“On the contrary, China seems resistant at this point in time to really move forward in establishing these dialogues and mechanisms,” the official said.

“What we need are the appropriate mechanisms between senior government officials, between the military, between the various crisis managers on both sides to be able to communicate when there’s something accidental or just misunderstood.”

Against this backdrop, Biden faces a series of decisions in the coming weeks and months that have the potential to further exacerbate tensions, including imposing new restrictions on US company investment in China and restricting or blocking US operations of the popular social media TikTok, which belongs to a Chinese company.

In Beijing, Chinese officials are expected to decide soon whether to heed US warnings and start supplying Russia with lethal weapons in its war in Ukraine.

The new three-way defense partnership between the US, Australia and the UK is the latest step aimed at countering China’s attempts at naval dominance in the Indo-Pacific and, potentially, its plans to invade self-ruled Taiwan.

Australia will now take delivery of its first of at least three advanced submarines early in the next decade, faster than anticipated when the AUKUS partnership launched 18 months ago, and American submarines like the USS Missouri will pass through Australian ports in the meantime.

Even before Biden traveled to Point Loma Naval Base in California to announce this progress alongside the British and Australian prime ministers, China was quick to criticize the change as a “Cold War mentality and zero-sum games”. ”.

The fact that China didn’t wait for its own announcement to strike is a sign of how closely Beijing is watching Biden’s movements in the Pacific, where the US military is expanding its presence and helping other nations modernize their fleets.

Another example of Biden’s view of China as the main long-term threat to global peace and stability, even as Russia’s war in Ukraine consumes current US diplomatic and military attention.

The first shipment will be American Virginia-class attack submarines, designed to employ a number of different weapons, including torpedoes and cruise missiles. Submarines can also carry special operations forces and carry out intelligence and reconnaissance missions.

This will be followed in the 2040s by British-designed submarines, containing American technology, which will transform Australia’s underwater capabilities over the next 25 years.

Prior to that, US submarines will be rotated to Australia to begin training Australian crews in the advanced technology, expanding the US defense posture in the region.

The submarines will not carry nuclear weapons and US, Australian and British officials insist the plans are consistent with international non-proliferation rules, despite Chinese protests.

The message sent by the announcement is unmistakable: the US and its allies see China’s rising naval ambitions as one of the main threats to its security and are preparing for a long-term struggle.

Earlier this year, the US announced it was expanding its military presence in the Philippines and welcomed Japan’s moves to strengthen its armed forces. “It is profoundly important,” a senior government official said of the AUKUS partnership.

“The Chinese know this, they recognize it, and they will want to engage accordingly.”

US officials said Britain’s participation in the new submarine project is a sign of Europe’s growing concerns about tensions in the Pacific — concerns that have surfaced within NATO even as the alliance remains consumed by war in Ukraine.

And in talks with European leaders last month, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, on Friday, Biden raised the issue of China in hopes of developing a coordinated approach.

The question that now arises is whether China will choose to resume and improve diplomatic relations with the US, despite the increase in tensions.

Successive phone calls and a face-to-face meeting with Xi in November have so far produced only hesitant progress in establishing what government officials describe as a “floor” in the relationship.

Four months after that meeting, progress has largely stalled on reopening the lines of communication between Washington and Beijing, once seen as the main conclusion of the three-hour session in Bali.

speaking to CNN in late February, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said it had been months since he had spoken with his Chinese counterpart.

Public comments from Chinese leaders, including Xi, have begun to intensify over the past week, a sign that last year’s confrontational approach is not abating.

Biden and his aides have largely downplayed the new high-pitched tone emanating from Beijing.

Asked by CNN on the meaning of the new reprimands from Xi and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, Biden categorically replied: “Not much.”

Tensions appeared to reach a new level last week after Xi directly rebuked US policy as “containment, encirclement and outright repression against us”.

Qin, in comments the following day, called the “competition” that Biden has long sought to frame as central to the relationship between the two powers as “a reckless gamble.”

“If the United States does not step on the brakes, but continues to accelerate in the wrong way, then no barriers can stop the derailment, and there will certainly be conflict and confrontation,” Qin said.

A senior administration official acknowledged that Xi’s recent rhetoric was “more direct” than in the past, but said the White House continued to believe that Xi “will again want to sit down and engage at the highest level” now that he has concluded his mandate last consolidation of power.

Source: CNN Brasil

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