Australia China’s punching bag | By Dr Farah Naz

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Australia China’s punching bag


IN July 2021, President XI clearly stated that the Chinese people will never allow any foreigner to bully us. Anyone who tries will have their heads bashed bloody against a great wall of steel.

Indeed, China is developing some of the world’s advanced weapon systems, including space-based weapons, handheld and battlefield laser weaponry, increased nuclear arsenal, electromagnetic rail guns and hypersonic missiles.

All these developments threatened the western powers and ultimately the UK, US and Australia launched the AUKUS pact to counter China and Australia abandoned the $66 billion submarine deal with France.

With this Australia moved away from its biggest economic partner China to its security partner US.

But will AUKUS be a strategic gamble for Australia? In the 60-minute Australia show, five experts explained their thoughts on the rising threats of war with China and its impacts on Australia.

Dr Malcolm Davis, Senior Analyst – Australian Strategic Policy Institute – said that Australia must stand militarily with the US to face down China.

The decision to spend Australian money on defence is threat perception and is focussed exclusively on rising China.

Dr John Lee – Expert Indo-Pacific Strategic Affairs – shared that China has been preparing for war for at least decades.

Its whole military modernisation has been largely aimed towards having a war over Taiwan. John Lee said that China wants military control over the entire Indo-Pacific region and must be stopped.

China claims the whole South China Sea. If they achieve that the way the region operates changes fundamentally. China spends more on its military than the whole of Asia combined.

Dr David Brophy – Historian/Author ‘China Panic’ – said that war with China should be unthinkable and should remain unthinkable because when we talk about war with China we talking about the potential from the level of casualties and destruction that this country has certainly never experienced and will be devastated for people across Asia.

Dr Brophy said that Australia’s subservience to the US will help provoke a war with China. He believes that the smartest strategy would be to engage with China rather than get into war.

I think the US position is slipping in the region and it is unthinkable for a lot of people in Canberra particularly in the defence sector that Australia can be left alone without America in the neighbourhood to help Australia if it gets in trouble.

But Canberra is not realising the fact that there is no military threat to Australia from China then why war with China!

Jason Yat-sen Li – President – Chinese Australian Forum – mentioned that it is very dangerous to frame China as completely evil, only.

Australia needs to accept that there is also a good China where things that China does and can do are for the benefit of the whole world.

He emphasized that Australia and the US are talking themselves into a devastating confrontation with China.

Li holds an anti-war narrative and mentions that it is tremendously ironic that we choose to lead the world. The world is tough on China but we are so economically vulnerable.

The military upgrades that we are talking about, the extra spending on our defence forces we cannot afford because of our profitable trade with China.

The great narrative of the Chinese Communist Party includes three points: 1) It is undeterrable, 2) China’s goals are fixed and 3) it will pay any cost to achieve its goals. Hence, the western powers need to reflect on their war strategies towards China.

Professor Clinton Fernandes – Future Operation Research Group – stated that it is time for ordinary Australians to be aware of this game in the Indo Pacific. He mentioned that war is an extremely serious matter.

Grant Newsham- Colonel, USMCR (Ret.) – a China specialist and former Intelligence Head for the US Marine Forces in the Pacific – stated that Australia has shown the world how one deals with China and the Chinese Communist Party in particular.

He stated that Australia’s future is to fight for if you want to keep the idea that China will never attack or will never invade. However, I would never count on that narrative.

There is no doubt Australia has been engaged in a war of words with China on human rights and more recently the origin of COVID-19.

But, China has been hitting Australia with trade sanctions and rhetoric escalation. Peter Dutton the Australian Defence Minister said that China has been very clear on its goals.

Here the question arises that is Australia unnecessarily antagonising a super-power and a major trading partner.

Is Australia talking itself into a war with China or is Australia bravely standing against China? If it is the latter then can Australia afford it and is it required? Australia is making an expensive enemy.

Its war of words with China is already costing them billions in exports every year. Experts also warn that if words turn to war, Australians will pay a terrible price.

Aussies are dealing with a potential for a conflict that could be much more impactful on ordinary Australians than they have seen in the recent decade.

Professor David Kilcullen fears that Australia is already China’s punching bag. Australia is not only seeing an escalation of the US-China rhetoric against each other but Australia is increasingly being seen as a US ally that the Chinese feel that they can push around to try to send a message to others.

Seemingly, the talk of war in the Indo-Pacific amongst Australian people makes them fearful and anxious. But at the same time makes the prospects of war more likely. Because when it comes to the ultimate use of a weapon then it’s nuclear war and Australia being a target.

Brophy speculates that if China and America got into a war situation and China wants to step up the escalator ladder without necessarily striking the US mainland then Australia becomes an option.

Both Pine Gap and North West Cape, US intelligence bases on Aussie soil, will be critical in any conflict with China.

I am extremely worried that why would Australia get into this unwanted tactical nuclear threshold as a price to its military partnership with the US? Australia should realise that the US no longer has the stomach to get into conflict even if it is in the Australian backyard.

The US could lose in an all-out conflict with China. Hence, to avoid being China’s punching bag, Australia should plan wisely and play safely!

—The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Government and Public Policy, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, National University of Sciences and Technology.

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