By Andrew Chen
China is forging a menacing alliance with other hostile regimes against the West and is growing as a prominent threat challenging U.S.-led democracies across diverse arenas in the Indo-Pacific theatre, experts warned at a recent international security forum.
Political and military leaders shared this perspective during two panel discussions at the 2023 Halifax International Security Forum (HFX) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Nov. 17–19, which introduced a new acronym, “CRINKs,” to describe the alliance between China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
“Our adversaries are teaming up against us in Ukraine, in Israel, in Europe, and in the Pacific,” said Josh Rogin, a columnist with The Washington Post, speaking as moderator of a panel on Nov. 17 focused on what a Russian victory in Ukraine would mean for the CRINKs.
He said China is collaborating with Russia to assist Hamas diplomatically, and the communist regime is also aiding Russia and Iran in evading Western sanctions and sustaining their aggressive actions. Meanwhile, Iran is supplying arms to both Russia and the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza, and North Korea is exporting weapons to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, he added.Vincent Chao, director and spokesperson for Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party, who was one of the speakers on the panel, said that if Russia were to win in its war against Ukraine, such an outcome would first and foremost send a powerful message to other authoritarian regimes worldwide, emboldening them in the face of democracy’s decline.
In particular, he underscored that a Russian triumph would amplify the ambition of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to forcibly bring Taiwan under its control, emphasizing the inevitability of reunification and urging the people of the self-ruled island to reconcile with this CCP narrative.
“On China again, there’s only one way really to keep their ambitions in check. And the only way is to stand together; there simply isn’t any other way that the United States can do it alone,” Mr. Chao said.
“The only way it’s remotely possible is if all of us stand together now, rather than 10 years, 15 years later, and reminisce about what could have been, what should have been.”
Beijing ‘Wants a Prolonged Ukraine War’
The implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the CCP’s global ambition was echoed by Nathan Law, a former Hong Kong politician currently in exile in the UK for his outspoken opposition to the Beijing regime.
Speaking at a separate panel at the forum on Nov. 18 focusing on implications for the Indo-Pacific, Mr. Law noted that Chinese leader Xi Jinping “wants a prolonged Ukraine war,” as it diverts the world’s attention away from China. Additionally, he said if Russia succeeds in annexing Ukraine, it could provide Beijing with leverage to persuade other authoritarian states to collaborate.
Over the past two years, Beijing has escalated its threats against Taiwan, located approximately 130 kilometres off the southeast coast of mainland China. Beijing has repeatedly set new records in the number of military aircraft deployed to encircle the island, employing a form of intimidation accompanied by economic coercion and various forms of disinformation.
Two other speakers on that panel were U.S. Army General Charles Flynn and General Wayne Eyre, Canada’s chief of the defence staff.
When asked about the argument that “if China’s the big issue, then Ukraine serves as a distraction,” Gen. Flynn echoed concerns about a potential Pacific war while regional conflicts in Europe and the Middle East rage on.
“There is a limited and regional war going on in Europe; there’s another limited and regional war going on in the Middle East. And the last thing that we all can afford is another war in the Pacific,” he said.
Gen. Eyre concurred with Gen. Flynn, stating that “I believe [it] directly relates to opportunities, and I would add threats, in the Asia-Pacific Indo-Pacific region.”
He said the issue extends beyond a direct challenge to the ideas of territorial sovereignty, encompassing threats to the right of people to exist and to choose their own form of government.
Gen. Eyre also noted that if these norms in the international order are not upheld, it will embolden others to embark on imperialistic adventurism and expansionism in the international system.
“Standing up against this aggression, standing up against this perhaps the largest threat to the international order since the end of the Cold War, and perhaps since the end of the Second World War, I think is in all of our interests,” he said.