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As China flexes its muscles in the Indo-Pacific, Canada and Australia must step up


China is posing many challenges to the Indo-Pacific region in 2022. How should Canada and Australia respond?

JULY 2022

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston

Senior Fellow, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa

John Garrick

University Fellow in Law, Charles Darwin University

Neither Canada nor Australia currently has a comprehensive strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. But it’s essential that both develop one given the rapidly evolving environment in the area.

First, NATO recognised the importance of the region at its June 2022 summit in Madrid, and second, it named the People’s Republic of China as a challenge to the alliance’s interests, security and values.

Canada is a NATO member, and Australia is an “enhanced opportunities partner” along with Japan, Korea and New Zealand. How middle-power countries like Canada and Australia respond to these challenges and contribute to NATO’s new “Strategic Concept” — the alliance’s plan to deal with ongoing risks — will be vital.

Both countries have relied to date on news releases, ministerial statements and readouts to convey their approach to the Indo-Pacific. Now they must map out more authoritative and detailed Indo-Pacific strategies.

Military muscle flexing

Indo-Pacific nations have been watching with concern as North Korea dramatically increased its missile testing. Chinese aggression has also intensified in the South China and East China Seas, including over-fishing and military muscle-flexing.


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