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The importance of American military might to Australia and the Asia-Pacific

By Chris Lewis - posted Thursday, 23 September 2021

The security pact (Aukus) between the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia is indeed intended to help counter China in the Asia-Pacific, as acknowledged by the UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace who stated that “Our partners in those regions want to be able to stand their own ground” with China “embarking on one of the biggest military spends in history”.

Australia is not alone with its need for US military support as many nations are increasingly wary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which openly expresses its nationalist desire to dominate the international economy.

While we will have to wait and see how events play out, and whether or not the West (and allies) can temper the influence of the CCP, it is increasingly evident that the world will divide between nations aligned to Western or authoritarian powers.


Whatever the case, the Western led world will require immense military might for a very long time.

Many nations, knowing the obvious link between economic and military security, are supporting US to some degree on the basis that the US is much more committed to a multilateral rule-based world order.

During June 2021, the G7 group of major economies criticised China for alleged human rights abuses and demanded a transparent investigation of the origins of Covid-19 in the country.

A week later, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), on the same day that China had sent an unprecedented 28 air force jets into Taiwan’s air defence zone, expressed similar concern by noting “China’s frequent lack of transparency and use of disinformation”; the growing military capabilities of China, which it sees as a threat to the security and democratic values of its members; and China's activities in Africa, which includes China having a military base in Djibouti.

All nations eager to promote a multilateral world order, even if they have their own grievances with the US or each other, as France now does with Australia reneging on a submarine deal in favour of the US, will have to run the risk of annoying China.

This will mean that the European powers may also spend more of their defence budgets addressing the issue of China with 11 NATO members meeting the 2 per cent of GDP threshold in 2020 after just three members did so in 2014.


Following on from 2021 visits from Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada, India also announced in August 2021 that it too intended to send warships through the South China Sea and would participate in a number of military exercises, including with the Japanese and Australian navies.

Many Asian countries are well aware of the importance of the US to the region.

With regard to the South China Sea, which hosts around one-third of world shipping travels (over $4 trillion in trade) and important fisheries and undersea fossil fuel reserves, Chinese claims compete with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia.

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About the Author

Chris Lewis, who completed a First Class Honours degree and PhD (Commonwealth scholarship) at Monash University, has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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All articles by Chris Lewis

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