patten131_Drew AngererGetty Images_australiaUSAUKUS Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Necessity of AUKUS

The diplomacy surrounding the recent agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States left much to be desired, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson should now lead efforts to mollify the French. But this should not be the last agreement between like-minded powers to counter Chinese aggression.

LONDON – The basic text making the case for an international-relations rulebook was provided by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides in his account of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in the fifth century BCE. During that struggle, the inhabitants of Melos, the only significant island in the Aegean Sea not controlled by Athens, insisted on retaining their neutrality despite intense Athenian pressure. Eventually, the Athenians lost patience and wiped the Melians out, killing all the men and enslaving the women and children. The Athenian justification was simple: “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

It has become increasingly apparent that this is also China’s view of the world today. Now a global economic power with a large navy, China seeks to tempt others with the prospect of selling more goods in its huge market or borrowing money for infrastructure projects. It may, for the sake of form, pretend to abide by the international agreements it has signed. But China’s leaders, in fine Leninist form, simply do whatever they deem to be in the Communist Party’s interest.

This is evident in China’s behavior in the sea lanes to its south; in its relations with neighbors such as Vietnam, India, and the Philippines; in the fight against epidemic disease; in its crackdowns in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet; and in its international trade and economic policy. In each case, China does what it wants and what it thinks it can get away with. And it regards any attempt by others to stand up to the bullies in Beijing as tantamount to launching a new Cold War.

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