War with China looms: Questions that need answers

Nov 8, 2022
Taiwanese flag with Chinese Flag in background.

We now have a clearer picture of how deeply entangled with US strategic priorities and war preparations Australia has become. We also know that China is viewed as the principal adversary, and that US military planners and their Australian counterparts are busily planning for a major military confrontation with China, most likely over Taiwan.

The stage has been suitably choreographed

From US and Australian and officials has come a stream of vitriol accusing China of aggression and of posing an immense threat to national and global security.

Helping to embellish the threat scenario was Nancy Pelosi’s provocative visit to Taiwan to which a furious China responded by dispatching warships and military aircraft to all sides of the island, an action which the Australian government strongly criticised, describing it as destabilising and deeply concerning.

In September, Biden made his most forthright pledge that US forces would intervene if Taiwan is attacked by China. Throughout, the Australian government refrained from criticising either the Pelosi visit or Biden’s statement.

Meanwhile, Australian mainstream media have dutifully reported US and Australian government pronouncements on the China threat, and become increasingly vociferous contributors to the anti-China frenzy.

A network of interlinked military alliances and partnerships has been created

Both Liberal and Labor governments have repeatedly stressed the importance of ANZUS  with increasing emphasis on deepening and broadening the military and security alliance. 

Australia has become an enthusiastic participant in the QUAD, a four-nation security dialogue designed largely to contain China’s rise AUKUS the new strategic partnership between Australia, UK and US announced in September 2021, aims to equip Australia with a fleet of nuclear powered submarines of unknown cost and effectiveness. The larger objective is to develop enhanced military capabilities and advanced military technologies with a view to preserving US strategic dominance in the ‘Indo-Pacific region’.

Australia-Japan military and intelligence links have dramatically increased, culminating in October in the ‘Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation’. The stated aim is to enhance cooperation and interoperability between the armed forces of the two countries, and strengthen their respective alliances with the United States.

Australia has been fully integrated into the US military-industrial complex

The web of joint military exercises has been vastly expanded. Talisman Sabre and Exercise Pacific Vanguard are two notable examples.

The United States now controls or has extensive access to an ever larger array of military assets on Australian soil, including the high-technology bases cluster along the length of North West Cape in Western Australia, the port and air base of Darwin, and the Tindal air base where, as revealed on Four Corners, the US will soon regularly base six of its nuclear-capable B-52 bombers for which it will build dedicated facilities. To this must be added the large and still growing Pine Gap facility which will play a key role in any US conventional and nuclear operations from Africa to the Pacific.

The The Washington Post  recently revealed that two retired US admirals and three former US Navy officials played a critical but secretive role as highly paid consultants advising the Australian government during its negotiations to acquire top-secret nuclear submarine technology. This advice, one may safely assume, contributed to the cancellation of the French submarine contract and the establishment of AUKUS.

In an interview last Saturday Prime Minister Albanese revealed that plans are afoot to pursue this threefold strategy with renewed vigour and zest. The Strategic Defence Review is but a means to this end. With it will come the costly expansion of military capabilities needed to project power beyond Australia’s shores all in the name of “strategic competition’’.

The upshot is that Australia’s security now lies in highly dangerous territory. Below are just a few of the questions that require the urgent attention of government, parliament, and key sectors of society.

Cabinet and in particular the prime minister and senior ministers

Has the Government commissioned a detailed assessment of the likelihood of an armed conflict over the future of Taiwan? In the event of such a conflict is Australia committed to supporting a US military intervention? Is the government prepared to pledge that it will not allow military facilities on its soil to be used for such a purpose?

The Ukraine war coupled with rising tensions over Taiwan and the Korean peninsula has raised renewed fears over the possible use of nuclear weapons. The UN Secretary General recently stated: “Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.” Does the government share this assessment? Does it agree that nuclear deterrence is looking more fragile than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis?

Does the government regard its current support for the US nuclear deterrent and America’s use of military facilities in Australia, in particular the possible deployment of nuclear capable B-52 bombers, as constituting an impediment to Australia signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons? If not, when will the government proceed with signing the Treaty?

Should we become directly or indirectly engaged in a conflict over Taiwan, is it expected that military facilities in Australia will come under attack? Might such targeting extend to energy and other critical facilities? If so, has the government developed plans to minimise civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure?

Are US current and retired officials, as revealed in the Washington Post article, still in the government’s pay? Are such arrangements deemed compatible with an independent foreign and security policy?

Has the government considered consulting its Southeast Asian neighbours, in particular Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, with a view to exploring joint initiatives that might lower tensions across the Korean, Taiwan and South China Sea flashpoints? If so, what concrete steps have been taken?

The Labor caucus

Have senior ministers provided caucus with detailed briefings on the key issues raised above? Has the caucus had the opportunity to discuss the issues in detail?

Have members of the Labor caucus, individually or collectively, considered the possibility of Australia pursuing a more independent foreign policy, one that aims for co-operative coexistence between the major centres of power and influence, with none seeking to maintain a position of regional or global dominance?

Have Labor members of parliament encouraged a sustained discussion of these issues in ALP branches and the wider community?

The Greens

Have the Greens developed a comprehensive set of ideas and proposals regarding Australia’s relations with the United States and China?

If so, have they been widely discussed by the membership, and will they be prominently communicated to the Australian public?

The Independents

Have the independents had the opportunity to consider the issues raised above? Do they consider them crucial to human security? Have they engaged in discussion with their local communities? Are they planning to bring fresh ideas to the table?


Given their crucial stake in in the economic relationship with China, are Australian businesses and their respective peak bodies regularly consulted on future policy development?

Would they welcome such consultation? Can Australian business help in any way to ease the present Australia-China standoff?

Media and Education

Do our media and educational institutions equip us to make sense of the present turbulence in international affairs?

Do they provide the accurate information, dispassionate analysis, and the spaces conducive to a mature, national conversation on the critical issues of war and peace?

How are they helping to enhance Asia, and in particular China literacy?

The Chinese community in Australia

Are Chinese Australians concerned about the direction of the Australia-China relationship?

Is this a frequent subject of conversation?

If there are concerns, have they made them known to government?

Has government sought their advice on issues pertaining to the relationship?

Civil society
This is a rather large category that includes Indigenous groups, professional associations, unions, charitable, philanthropic, cultural, faith-based, human rights and other organisations.

Key questions arise: How is each group responding to the souring relationship with China and the looming prospect of war? Is it keeping its members informed? Is it making a helpful contribution to the national conversation?

These and related questions are no mere academic exercise. They affect each and every Australian. They challenge us to respond to a global power and civilisational shift the likes of which we have not seen since European settlement. This is too important a task to be left to generals and politicians.

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