International politics could be considered a game of coalition building. Whoever builds a stronger and broader coalition of partners can exert more influence. There were two coalitions after World War II; countries advocating the western ideology of capitalism led by the US and on the other side, countries advocating the ideology of Marxist communism led by the Soviet Union (USSR). Both the blocs engaged in the Cold War to acquire sole global influence, and scholars of international relations termed the second half of twentieth century as a time of ‘great power politics.’ The British forward policy of the Great Game prevailed in containment while preventing the rise of new Asian powers.

The world is going through somewhat the same phenomena these days. Policymakers in Washington are conceding that strategic competition, generally referred to as great power realpolitik, is now once again a reality of international politics.

Post-World War II, USA-UK made an intelligence sharing group to exchange intelligence information apropos the Soviet Union (USSR). Canada joined it in 1948 and Australia and New Zealand became members in 1956. The alliance is known as the ‘Five Eyes’. It is the most powerful intelligence network of the globe. The former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described it as a “Supra-national intelligence organisation that does not answer to the known laws of its own countries”. It does not usually come under media scrutiny due to its secrecy.

In the new millennium, allied members reached a consensus over countering Chinese influence regionally and globally. An informal alliance with European countries including Denmark, France, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Spain was formed. Since 2018, the Five Eyes expanded their cooperation with India the most, as a top US congressional committee sought to bring three Asian countries namely India, Japan and South Korea at par with the Five Eyes.

The alliance’s members are clashing on a range of fronts with China—from the handling of the 5G technology to the coronavirus pandemic to Hong Kong and the global supply chain—there was a growing understanding within the Five Eyes that taking on China alone or one at a time would not work.

Signs of joint action emerged two years ago when Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies, at the request of the US. Last year, the US placed trade restrictions on Huawei, blocking American companies from doing business with it, and has called for its allies to ban the Chinese firm from their 5G networks. Australia and New Zealand have already blocked the Chinese firm Huawei while Canada has yet to reveal where it stands.

The US blamed China for allowing the pathogen to spread beyond its borders, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison led calls for an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus.

The US and Britain have denounced Beijing’s decision to enact national security legislation for Hong Kong, with Britain saying the alliance would “share the burden” if Hong-Kongers wanted to leave the city. Georgina Downer, principal of geopolitical and strategic advisory firm Tenjin Consulting, said there were clear signs of concerted action by the five members.

The major strategic shift has seen when government leaders, particularly Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed reports that the alliance would be used for economic purposes as well as strategic. China is the largest manufacturer of the global supply chain (making and selling commercial goods) which gave weight to her voice globally. The Five Eye countries want to hit China’s global supply chain. The idea is that, either they want to move this supply chain towards Five Eye countries or their trusted allies’ i.e. the aforementioned European countries, India, Japan, South Korea and so on. The recent move by the United States to link South and Central Asia known as C5+1 by bringing investment is orchestrated to counter China’s dominance of the global supply chain.

By keeping in mind the ‘theory of the Heartland’ as a pivot of the world, and the Rimland to control it, the western bloc again stepped forward into the battlefield with the containment strategy.

On the other hand, the Chinese-led coalition is based on a series of global investments. Powerful Muslim countries which once allied themselves with the US in the Cold War are now part of Chinese investment, including Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan. Russia is also a concrete ally of the People’s Republic of China.

The massive investment of $400 billion by China, in US’s arch rival country Iran, created a twist in the game. It paved the way for Beijing to flex its muscles in the Middle East. It can prove to be a tool for China to use against Washington. Elsewhere, Turkish alignment with Muslim nations in contemporary times, growing relations with China and Russia and excluding itself from US-led NATO explicitly indicates that it aligned itself in the Asian bloc.

Pakistan, an important player of geopolitics, is geographically located at the confluence of three strategic plates, one, the Pivot and two in the Rimland; the meeting point of Central, South and West Asia. This is a crucial component of the containment sphere as it paved the way for Washington to dismember USSR amid the cold war. The growing partnership and strategic relations between China and Pakistan in the form of CPEC can change the trajectory of all power politics and the contemporary containment policy.