China’s recent actions – its trade coercion against Australia, border clash with India, maritime harassment of Japan, and military expansionism in the South China Sea – have compelled the U.S. and Australia to leverage their decades-long defence alliance and intelligence ties to deepen existing relationships and build new partnerships in the face of an aggressive China bent on asserting itself across the Indo-Pacific.
This paper assesses different ways in which Canberra can work with Washington as part of a broader coalition of like-minded nations rightly concerned about what a future of economic coercion, maritime border disputes, and contested resource rights and shipping lanes may hold.
While Japan and India have moved closer to the U.S. and Australia – most recently through the reborn Quad – other potential regional partners such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore are either hedging or approaching the changing security dynamics in a more deliberate fashion. There are opportunities to enhance cooperation with these nations, but progress will likely be incremental.
Neither the U.S. nor Australia can allow themselves or their partners to become supplicants of Beijing, and greater bilateral coordination in conjunction with a broader approach in the region will be essential to countering China’s aggression and securing the future of a free and open Indo-Pacific.