One day after Chinese warships were spotted within Alaska’s exclusive economic zone, the Biden administration announced Wednesday that the United States and the United Kingdom would share sensitive nuclear submarine technology with Australia. This marks the first time since 1958 that the United States has shared nuclear propulsion technology with an ally. The move is intended to counter China’s expansive territorial claims and naval buildup in the Indo-Pacific region.
The new technology sharing alliance, labeled AUKUS, will be planned and implemented over the next 18 months. Importantly, President Joe Biden noted during his remarks that while the submarines are powered using nuclear reactors, they will be armed with conventional, not nuclear weapons. New Zealand, which has banned nuclear-powered vessels within its territory since 1984, will continue this ban for the new Australian submarines. In recent years, New Zealand has moved diplomatically closer to China by participating in the Chinese infrastructure-building Belt and Road Initiative.
While this technology sharing initiative represents a new effort to combat growing Chinese power in the region (a recent war game conducted by the U.S. Air Force showed China would quickly defeat America in the region), AUKUS reflects a deepening of a decades-old partnership. The United States, United Kingdom, and Australia make up three countries within the Five Eyes, an intelligence sharing alliance created during World War II.
While Biden’s announcement represents a much needed step in the right direction, more economic and military action will likely be necessary to curtail and overcome China’s emboldened aggression. In just the first eight months of the Biden administration, China has: simulated an attack on the U.S. Navy’s Theodore Roosevelt carrier, hacked Microsoft and 30,000 U.S. organizations, warned that China’s enemies will have their “heads cracked and bleeding,” humiliated Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other State Department officials on the U.S. homeland, claimed that the United States “cannot speak from a position of strength,” flew nuclear bombers and fighter jets into Taiwan’s airspace as part of an ‘invasion’ war game in September, flew a record number of 28 military airplanes into Taiwan’s airspace in June, and issued a warning to Taiwan about U.S. resolve after Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan last month.
AUKUS is a necessary response to the Chinese’s increased provocations. The significance of the aforementioned Chinese military invasion of Alaska’s exclusive economic zone cannot be overstated. Just a couple of years ago, such an action would have been inconceivable. However, the move is reflective of China’s urgency to establish military and economic superiority in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic — a pandemic that possibly originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China.
Biden and Congress must stand strong against Chinese aggression and continue to apply economic and military pressure against the CCP. In June, the Senate passed a $250 billion tech and manufacturing bill designed to boost American industries and counter China. Among the industries supported was the semiconductor industry, which is crucial in what some have described as the U.S.-China tech war. More investments must be made in modernizing and increasing our military presence in the Indo-Pacific region, and in light of recent events, Biden must consider stationing active Marine units in Alaska. Such a move would empower America to lead from a position of strength — not weakness. Stationing U.S. Marines in Alaska would demonstrate that the U.S. will be unwavering in defending its territory and interests in the Indo-Pacific. Further, keeping a limited but robust U.S. Marine presence in Alaska would reduce the risk of conflict and miscalculation by the Chinese, who would be unlikely to attack the American homeland.
Strength and calculated pressure in the cybersecurity realm is also crucial in a multipronged approach to confronting and containing China. In 2019, President Donald Trump launched a campaign against Huawei, a major Chinese telecommunications firm. Experts warned that Huawei’s 5G technology can be used by the CCP to steal Americans’ data, and possibly even shut down entire cities. Trump banned the company from America’s 5G network infrastructure, prohibited the use of U.S.-produced semiconductors in Huawei technologies, and pressured our allies to take similar actions. As a result, Huawei’s revenue dropped by 38 percent and many of America’s allies, including Australia and the United Kingdom, have also banned Huawei from their digital infrastructure. In the 21st century, digital security is national security.
While the Biden administration has kept in place and expanded on Trump’s policies toward Huawei, Biden failed to pursue any punitive action against China for hacking Microsoft and its customers earlier this year. Further, Biden dropped Trump’s proposed ban on TikTok, a Chinese social media giant that, based on China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, would be required to turn over consumer data if it were requested by the Chinese government. More crucial steps must be taken, including offering an American alternative to Huawei in developing countries, to secure the digital future.
AUKUS is the first China policy spearheaded by the Biden administration that has teeth, and hopefully it is the first of many. By sending warships into Alaska’s exclusive economic zone — American territory — China crossed a red line that must have severe repercussions. America must reassert its dominance in the world and ensure peace through strength.