Will Quad and Aukus alliances drive Europe into China’s arms?
- With bilateral trade growing and unstable geopolitics elsewhere, China and Europe have good reason to make common cause
- The US, Japan, Britain, Australia and India tying their fortunes to the Indo-Pacific could give Brussels the political impetus to seek closer cooperation with Beijing
Now that the Quad and Aukus gambits have been employed by the United States and its partners in the global political-economic chess game, who will make the next move? Neither China nor Europe will concede checkmate by rivals and might instead find common cause in a joint strategy.
As the focus of the Quad and Aukus – united by a commitment to shared values, rather than economic rationale – shifts to the Indo-Pacific region, the case for economic unity among contiguous nations stretching from China to western Europe grows stronger. The fact that two independent, offshore islands in Britain and Japan have now tied their fortunes to the Indo-Pacific only strengthens this logic.
Japan never quite fit into Eurasia, at least in the post-war years, because of its insular geographic situation and its alliance with the US. Britain has scorned continental Europe after Brexit and through its submarine deal with the US and Australia at France’s expense.
Whatever success such initiatives have had in undermining the image of the Belt and Road Initiative, these same rivals are now behaving in ways that could push Europe – whatever its doubts about the initiative and other manifestations of Beijing’s power – deeper into China’s embrace.
Admittedly, only France was snubbed directly by Australia’s decision to cancel a lucrative deal with Paris for diesel-powered submarines and opt for nuclear-powered US boats instead. However, the ramifications go deeper into Europe.
Nothing is more conducive to unity and even marriages of convenience among different bedfellows than the emergence of a common enemy. With the increasing assertiveness shown by the Quad and Aukus, China and Europe have good reason to make common cause.
The release of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou after the US dropped its bid to have her extradited from Canada could provide a precedent if the EU should decide the advantage in a more hostile global environment lies in closer relations with China.
For Europe, the incentive to closer integration could become more compelling now that the US, Japan, Britain, Australia and India have solidified their institutional relations and tied their fortunes more closely to those of the Indo-Pacific.
The continental logic of closer cooperation among European, Central Asian and East Asian economies is strong, and China already has a plan to connect each region’s industrial heartlands and markets. What is needed is political impetus, and the Quad powers are providing it now.
Anthony Rowley is a veteran journalist specialising in Asian economic and financial affairs