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Asia Report: Combating China in the pacific and other Asia stories

Sep 24, 2021

By Staff Writer
23:09:2021

The recent pact concluded between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States to provide Australia with the technology to deploy nuclear-powered submarines in the Pacific has angered other pacific countries, including Indonesia and Malaysia.

Further, the pact, aimed at combating increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region, also has been opposed by India, who previously sought civilian nuclear technology transfer from the US, with limited success in recent years.

Moreover, France, a critical Western nuclear power with its nuclear capabilities, labelled the move as a “stab in the back”, and Paris recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.

Significantly in this regard, Australia was in the process of purchasing a 60-billion-dollar diesel submarine package from French companies, with this pact enabling Canberra to cancel the deal with France.

Speaking to Radio Islam International, Sanusha Naidu, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Global Dialogue, noted the reasons and implications for the region and Western alliance.

“What it does do is that it changes the complexion of the region. It means that the US kind of went. In the context of even bypassing NATO, and of course, it means that they are now beginning to utilise this pact in terms of what kind of submarine technology they are willing to support and provide to Australia in the region.”

The France-Australia RAU is also not likely to end, with the two presidents refusing to meet at the UN’s General Assembly. Further, Macron is due to go to the polls in early 2022; he has been hampered by this decision but also advantaged because his angry rhetorical response may gain him nationalist support.

Meanwhile, the deal does increase tensions in the Pacific, especially in light of China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea. However, it will ensure that China’s aspirations in the medium term will be more challenging to achieve.

President Xi Jinping announced that China would no longer fund coal-fired power stations in the developing world. This is notable because China is the largest funder of coal-powered stations, especially in countries constituting part of its belt and road initiative.

The announcement was retroactive, since China had already stopped funding from the beginning of the year and may heel the medium-term ending of coal as a significant source of power. It must be noted that Beijing is to construct a further 40 coal-fired power stations domestically in the next few years.

Further, it is not clear whether the ban is only on Chinese state-owned companies or extends to the private sector.

Ms Naidu, however, noted that “this comes from the internal discussions and domestically in China about how they are moving more and more towards a decarbonised and a neutral economy. So, this has become part of China’s overseas lending practice. Significantly, China envisages a carbon-neutral economy by 2060 and was responsible for over 50% of the growth in rentable technology in 2020 alone.

Last is the issue of the politicised trial on the charges of incitement against Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Now, when you look at the coup that took place, it was quite interesting to see how the military junta used Particular dynamics like Covid-19 violations and the questions of unauthorised communication devices used by her. There were flimsy accusations and charges put in. We all know that this was part of the issue that the military didn’t want to lose power and its strategic footprint in the country.”

Ms Suu Kyi has denied the charges and will stand trial; however, Ms Naidu did question the possibility of the judiciary and the separation of power. However, the uprising has not yet been scuppered, with the now overthrown government forming a people’s defence force in May. Further, the military crackdown continues.

 

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