As China Rises, Australia Asks Itself: Can It Rely on America?

As China Rises, Australia Asks Itself: Can It Rely on America? By Jane Perlez.

When the Australian government set out to write a new foreign policy paper, it faced hotly contested questions shaping the country’s future: Will China replace the United States as the dominant power in Asia? If so, how quickly?

The government’s answers came in a so-called white paper released last month by the administration of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. For sure, China is challenging the United States in Asia, though in the end, it argues, America will prevail and Australia can count on its security guarantor of the past 70 years.

But a prominent defense strategist, Hugh White, has disputed that view, arguing in a provocative new essay that China has arrived, the United States is fading and Australia must find a way to survive on its own. …

“We all underestimated China’s power and resolve and overestimated America’s,” wrote Mr. White, who worked on sensitive intelligence and military matters with the United States as a senior official at the Australian Defense Department. “Not only is America failing to remain the dominant power, it is failing to retain any substantial strategic role at all.” …

The biggest splash came from Mr. White’s recommendations for what Australia should do about an American retreat. Faced with what he called Chinese efforts to impose its influence and different political values, he said Australia will have to do more to defend itself, including perhaps even one day acquiring nuclear weapons.

He said China’s rise is likely to spark an arms race in the Asia-Pacific, with both Japan and South Korea likely to become nuclear powers within a couple of decades.