Can the New Atlantic Charter Stop China’s Expansion in the Indo-Pacific?

19 October 2021 Professor B.M. Jain, FDI Associate

Instead of promoting peace, security and stability in the Indo-Pacific, the New Atlantic Charter could see China and Russia forge a united front against the US-led security partnership in the region.

 

Background

The New Atlantic Charter is a derivative of the Atlantic Charter Declaration, which was signed by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in August 1941. It aimed to create a world body to prevent the scourges of future wars. The Atlantic Charter was endorsed by 26 allied nations at the Washington conference held in 1942, paving the way for the creation of the United Nations Organisation in San Francisco with the signing of the UN Charter by 49 nations in June 1945. Its objective was to maintain global peace and security. The UN played a pivotal role in promoting peace and conflict resolution mechanisms but failed to bring about durable peace and security to many troubled parts of the world, notably in Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Libya. Those failures were primarily attributed to the vested interests of permanent members of the UN Security Council.

 

Comment

The international system today is an uncertain and disordered one. The primary reason for that disorder is an insufficient knowledge about the geopsychology[1] of ruling elites, violent non-state actors and authoritarian actors who possess the potential and capability to influence the order of the international system and challenge the superpower hegemony in the Indo-Pacific region. A fragile Quadrilateral Dialogue of four democracies – the USA, India, Japan, and Australia – has the unstated aim of restricting China’s expansion and influence in the Asia-Pacific region. The Quad lacks a specific roadmap as to how it can prevent China from expanding its strategic influence in the Asia-Pacific region, however, especially in the South China Sea and Taiwan, where America and China are locked in a direct, albeit non-kinetic, confrontation.

China seeks to demonstrate its power by deploying anti-ship and anti-air missile platforms, and combat aircraft to its military installations in the South China Sea to deter the US threat to its security and strategic interests in the region. Probably, Quad members will not come out openly to support America militarily and materially as we have witnessed in the case of Afghanistan, where America, at the fag end of the war, was ploughing a lonely furrow. It might be recalled that President Donald Trump’s appeal to its old strategic allies for sharing the financial burden in the Afghan war went awry.

President Joe Biden crafted afresh his foreign policy approach to garner the support of its old allies and new partners like India to deal with China, which, he publicly announced, was America’s strategic rival. In light of that, the New Atlantic Charter was signed by President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in June 2021 to offer a “counter-vision” to Russian and Chinese autocracies that posed a major threat to a liberal, democratic and rules-based international order.

President Biden also made it clear that the days of “spheres of influence” and power politics are over. That was a clear message that America alone is in no position to reshape the global order without the concrete assistance of like-minded democratic nations. The US appears to be convinced that without security partnerships with its democratic allies, it cannot deal with the challenge emanating from China and Russia. As such, the American-British strategy, under the aegis of the New Atlantic Charter, aims to bring together a group of ten “leading democracies” with a clear objective: to fight the Russian and Chinese autocracies. This idea may sound good in theory, but in practice it might further escalate the US tension with China and Russia. Moreover, the New Atlantic Charter has not evoked much interest among US strategic partners. But how the US will push through the Quad and D-10 simultaneously is not yet precisely clear. This will be a counterproductive strategy, further fuelling the anti-West sentiment in Russia and China. Rather, the Biden Administration needs to charter a middle path to avoid a direct collision course with them in the larger interest of global and regional peace and stability.

 

[1] Jain, B.M., The Theory of Geopsychology of International Relations in the 21st Century: Escaping the Ignorance Trap (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2021).

About the Author

B.M. Jain is a former professor of political science at the South Asia Studies Centre, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India. He has been Visiting Professor at UBC, Canada; CSU, Cleveland, Ohio; SUNY at Binghamton, New York; UNESCO Chair for Peace, Jaume University, Castellon, Spain; and Visiting Scholar at the University of Hong Kong and the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. Professor Jain has delivered invited lectures at more than two dozen universities in North America, Europe and Asia and presented over three dozen papers at international conferences in Europe, Asia and North America.

Professor Jain has authored and edited more than twenty books. His recent books include The Theory of Geopsychology of International Relations in the 21st Century: Escaping the Ignorance Trap (Lexington Books, 2021), South Asia Conundrum: The Great Power Gambit (Lexington Books, 2019), China’s Soft Power Diplomacy in South Asia: Myth or Reality? (Lexington Books, 2017), India-US Relations in the Age of Uncertainty (Routledge, 2016), Global Power: India’s Foreign Policy (Lexington Books, 2008 and 2009), India in the New South Asia (IB Tauris, London, 2010), Conflict and Peace in South Asia, ed. (Emerald Publishing, London, 2008). Professor Jain has published nearly one hundred research papers, of which 40 are in peer-reviewed international journals, such as Pacific Affairs, The Round Table, Strategic Analysis, Journal of Asian Studies and China Report. His biography has been featured in Marquis Who’s Who in the World, 33rd and 34th editions (2016, 2018), and he has been Editor-in-Chief of the Indian Journal of Asian Affairs since 1988.

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