Time to talk strategy should we come to blows with China

Time to talk strategy should we come to blows with China. By Alan Dupont.

For the first time, China’s state-run media has made it clear that Australia soon may be a military target. … “Since Taiwan authorities are preparing for war, let’s see whether Australia is willing to accompany [the] Taiwan separatist regime to become cannon fodder.” …

China has produced more ships, submarines, aircraft and missiles than any other country during the past 20 years in a vast rearmament program that is unmatched in peacetime since the 1930s. China also has embarked on an expansion of its nuclear missile force. …

Chinese leaders are not big on invasions, occupations or nation-building. They prefer to colonise economically and frighten lesser states into compliance. The historical record shows Beijing is prepared to use military force to get its way and teach weaker countries “a lesson” in the realities of hard power.

 

 

India was on the receiving end of such lessons during the 1962 border war with China and last year’s clash over the disputed Galwan Valley when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in bloody, hand-to-hand combat with Chinese troops. Beijing sent an estimated 200,000-strong force into northern Vietnam in 1979 before the People’s Liberation Army withdrew after receiving a bloody nose from Vietnam’s battle-hardened regulars. …

If Xi decides to teach [Australia] a similar lesson, the PLA is likely to use different tactics for two reasons. It’s not cost effective or feasible to target Australia in the same way because we aren’t next door and easily reached. We also don’t have any territorial disputes with China, so it would be hard to justify overt military action against us short of war.

Instead, China is likely to wage psychological warfare, combining military pressure with economic coercion to maximise the costs of our impertinence. Military pressure might include harrying our naval ships and aircraft passing through the South China Sea; show of force operations by sailing warships into the Arafura Sea; increased monitoring and highly visible intelligence gathering against allied exercises in northern Australia; and allowing occasional sightings of Chinese submarines to demonstrate our reachability. …

Should we have the temerity to support Taiwan in defending itself against a PLA amphibious assault, Chinese missile forces could hit high-value defence facilities in northern Australia with long-range ballistic missiles and land-attack missiles delivered by submarines and bombers. But its preference will be to deter us from entering a fight over Taiwan using information warfare to exploit domestic divisions in Australia over China policy. Beijing’s argument of choice is that by aligning ourselves more closely with the US we risk becoming an adversary and military target. …

Bowing to threats is the path to appeasement and a guaranteed loss of sovereignty. Closer defence co-operation with the US is entirely consistent with the foreign policy pursued by governments of both political persuasions since 1941. For a middle power such as Australia it’s a sensible security hedge.

China are a rival, not our enemy. They are also our largest trade partner, so hopefully friendship will prevail.