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Graham Perry
Graham Perry
Experienced Arbitration Lawyer | China & Chinese Business Affairs | Public Speaker/Lecturer.


Yesterday, 15 September 2021, in a Virtual Event, President Biden, Prime Minister Johnson of the UK + Prime Minister Morrison of Australia announced a new trilateral security relationship that will enable Australia to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Biden said that the initiative is intended to bolster alliances as tensions rise with China over disputes ranging from the South China Sea to Taiwan.

In a thinly veiled reference to China, Morrison said the three countries had to raise their partnership to “A New Level” because of the “increasingly complex environment in Asia”. Co-operation would be boosted in cyber security, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

1.     This is much more than Five Eyes Intelligence Sharing as pursued by the US, UK, Australia, Canada + New Zealand. This is about nuclear submarines close to China

2.     The EU is excluded – growing evidence of a US/EU split when it comes to China and also a pointer to the UK – post Brexit –  searching for alliances and coalitions and a world role.

3.     Following the US’s confused and incoherent withdrawal from Afghanistan, is there confidence that the US will keep to its commitment – especially with Trump and his “US First” policy preparing for a 2024 comeback?

These are unsettling times and it is important to remember the importance that Washington and the Pentagon attach to the Thucydides Principle – drawing on Sparta/Athens tensions of Greek history – which focuses on the reluctance of established power to concede to a rising power.

“War is possible”. “War is probable”. Today it is possible to take either view. The key world relationship is between the US and China and an increase in the number of nuclear-powered submarines in the S China Sea only heightens tensions and anxieties. China is inflexible when it comes to issues of its territorial integrity. But China has no submarines off the West Coast of the US.

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