By Kazi Mahmood

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Western analysts wonder if China is constructing a rival alliance system in its search for new allies to counter the United States.

However, the actual issue is the U.S. attempt to divide the Asian region into pro-and anti-Chinese countries.

The Americans have enlisted the Australians in an unlikely nuclear alliance in the AUKUS to gain their support.

The aim of the nuclear alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States is to counter China's rise in Southeast Asia.

Australia has a defined anti-nuclear proliferation policy.

Joining a nuclear alliance did not seem likely, but it is now a reality that China will have to deal with as it adds to Beijing's woes with the renewed alliances between the U.S. and its Asian partners.

True, the U.S. has a long history of alliances in South and Southeast Asia, but this influence has waned as China has risen as a superpower.

In order to reposition both its political and military interests in Asia, the U.S. is now repositioning itself in the region.

It lost the Philippines' support in the South China Sea, and it lacks the support of countries such as Malaysia and Cambodia in this ongoing conflict at Asean backyard.

On their part, the Australians were abandoning Washington in favour of Chinese investment and other promises.

The nuclear submarine alliance has pushed the Australians back in their dealings with China.

But, in the meantime, the U.S. has benefited from its alliance with India, a country that has its feet in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa).

The Chinese do not lack allies. They have the support of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, also known as the Shanghai Five, which includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.

Recently, Seoul showed it wasn't entirely an ally of the Americans, who have given preference to the Japanese over the South Koreans and appear to call on South Koreans only when they want to discuss or threaten the North Koreans.

The Americans keep the upper hand in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, with India, Australia, and Japan on their side.

There are many alliances and security dialogues in the Asia-Pacific region in which both the United States and China compete for allies and influence.

Will the old alliances between the US and Asian nations, remnants of World War 2, hold up in the face of China's rapid rise, or will they be ineffective?

We believe it is China's call and it will make that decision as it has some of the answers.

The way China handles the South China Sea conflict will determine whether it keeps its new allies in the region. This is part of China's efforts to alter the world and the rules of international relations.

China possesses all the assets (cheap labour, low-cost exports, rapid technological development, and a large amount of cash) to increase its support in Asia.

The Americans are stretched thin and are resorting to old-fashioned carrot-and-stick tactics to keep their allies on their side.

It lacks the money that China has to throw around, and Washington lacks the commercial ability to dominate China in Asian markets.

We know that President Joe Biden's administration has prioritised allies in its Asia strategy.

In its first year, the administration bolstered long-standing alliances, such as those with Japan and South Korea, while also putting significant effort into strengthening multilateral partnerships such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and the newly formed AUKUS pact.

To assist the Americans, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is strengthening ties with its four Asia-Pacific partners: Australia, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.

According to NATO, in today's complex security environment, relationships with like-minded partners around the world are becoming increasingly important in addressing cross-cutting security issues and global challenges, as well as defending the rules-based international order.

In the end, it is up to China to show that it is maturing into a true superpower rather than just another bully willing to do anything to seize territories, waterways, or strategic spaces.

*Kazi Mahmood is the Founder of WorldFuture, an anti-war Non-Governmental Organisation*