A Chinese military researcher has downplayed the strength of the newly formed security alliance Aukus , arguing that lack of cohesiveness will prevent it becoming an Asian version of Nato. Neither Aukus nor the informal strategic alliance the Quad “could replicate Nato in the true sense of the word”, wrote Hu Fengsheng, an assistant researcher, this month in the foreign ministry-affiliated journal World Affairs . China has expressed anger over the Aukus pact, formed in September by Australia, the UK and the United States, describing it as an “extremely irresponsible” threat to stability in the Asia-Pacific region. The pact gave Australia access to US technology to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time. But Hu – of the Academy of Military Sciences, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) highest research institute – argued that the geopolitical context had changed vastly since military alliance the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) was formed in 1949. Economic integration in the region, combined with its political divides, would prevent Aukus expanding to become a Nato-like force, Hu wrote. After two months of lobbying, Beijing on Wednesday managed to add Aukus’ nuclear submarine cooperation to the agenda of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Hu said the creation of Aukus showed that Washington sought a closer alliance system to implement its Indo-Pacific strategy, with “stronger military purpose” and “more efficient operational synergy”. That purpose distinguished the pact from the looser Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), comprising the US, India, Japan and Australia, and the Five Eyes alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, which was focused on intelligence-sharing, Hu said. “The current general trend of global economic integration is very different from the confrontation and division between the two camps during the Cold War, with regional countries in different geopolitical environments and not enough common threats to give the United States the kind of appeal and control that it had in Nato in the long term,” Hu wrote. China fears Aukus is a ‘weapons grade’ loophole for non-nuclear Australia Nato was created by the US, Canada and Western European countries against a backdrop of divisions between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, during which western Europe relied on Washington for security. The alliance continued to expand after the Cold War, despite then US secretary of state James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance in 1990 to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, given to get Moscow’s support in pushing for Germany’s reunification. Hinting at expansion, Kurt Campbell, the White House coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs, this month referred to Aukus as “open architecture” and said it was “a response to China’s military build-up”. But Hu said it would be difficult to attract more countries to join, especially European ones, partly because of “the decline of US hegemony” and “its lack of credibility among allies”. He added that submarines that Australia could acquire through Aukus were banned from New Zealand’s waters, and that other neighbours including Indonesia and Malaysia had opposed the deal. The pact would eventually enhance Australia’s manoeuvre combat capabilities and help the US to extend its military reach, but did not pose an imminent threat, Hu wrote, noting that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had said he expected the submarines to be in use by the late 2030s. Hu’s assessment may indicate that the PLA has not excessively overestimated Aukus, said Wu Riqiang, an international relations professor at Renmin University. “The PLA always overestimates threats, but it is good to evaluate those threats practically and realistically,” he said, adding that he agreed with Hu’s arguments. China backs regional nuclear weapon-free zone in move to ‘contain Aukus’ The assessment was also backed by another Chinese scholar, Zhou Fangyin, dean of the international relations school at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. “The US is still a long way from achieving an ‘Asian Nato’,” Zhou said, reasoning that Nato had established functional bodies that Washington was unlikely to be able to replicate in the Asia-Pacific. Shi Yinhong, an international affairs professor at Renmin University in Beijing, said that Washington intended to build multilayered alliance systems in the region, including the Quad and Aukus, rather than form another alliance like Nato.