The Pacific Islands and their vast expanse of ocean have never been a major source of traditional military threats. The post-World War Two security architecture of the Pacific has historically been dominated by the United States. Yet today, China’s diplomatic and economic push into the Pacific is incrementally reshaping the strategic landscape. While its presence in the region is not new, Beijing has capitalised on the dissonance between Washington and the Pacific Island nations by steadily and significantly expanding its commercial and geopolitical clout. As a result, ten of the fourteen Pacific Island nations now recognise the One China policy, which warrants considerable attention from the United States and other regional actors such as Australia.
Australia has just become part of something momentous in the Indo-Pacific: a maritime super-region at the epicentre of strategic competition between the United States and China. The new tripartite security grouping between Australia, the UK and the US, called AUKUS, deepens the long-standing relationship between three of the world’s most multicultural democracies. While the creation of the newly-formed AUKUS is a significant development in the geopolitical environment of the Indo-Pacific, adding more power will be vital in building a balance against China’s power.
China’s growing maritime and military assertiveness increasingly threatens American primacy and the stability of the rules-based democratic order in the Indo-Pacific region. The Chinese Communist Party aims to power-project its military capabilities while also advancing its economic and diplomatic relations by spending billions on hard infrastructure projects in the region through China’s grand geopolitical project: the Belt and Road land and sea initiative.