China is on a collision course with the US, Australia and India are in!

The fault lines are: India-China, India-Pakistan, North and South Korea, China-Japan and China-Taiwan.

The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, we are living in a poorer and more dangerous world.

The coronavirus crisis has brought into sharper focus our global vulnerability and volatility, yet the warning signs were there well before this.

Australia has lost its 28 years of growth for coronavirus pandemic.

A decade ago, then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd outlined what he saw as the looming threat of conflict with China.

“The pace, scope and structure of China’s military modernisation have the potential to give its neighbours cause for concern,” the Rudd government’s 2009 Defence White Paper noted.

The rise of China was always going to be the defining issue of the 21st century.(Reuters: China Daily)

Australia will always choose the US

Australia is now waking from a lost decade. Scott Morrison has only now returned us to where we were under Rudd.

Taiwanese Air Force F-16s are patrolling over Taiwan Straits

Australia has always believed it would never have to choose between its strategic alliance with the United States and its biggest trading relationship with China.

That has always been a fallacy: of course we would choose the US, we are bound by values and security.

That does not mean making an enemy of China. But that, too, may be out of our hands.

Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) get ready for the military parade.
Soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) get ready for the military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the army at Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, July 30, 2017.(Reuters)

When it comes to war, Asia is a tinderbox

Are we sleepwalking to war again? In his book Destined for War, Graham Allison wrote that conflict is “not just possible, but much more likely than currently recognised”.

Morrison is rightly cautious with his language, not wanting to unnecessarily alarm or antagonise China.

But increasing Australia’s military spending is clearly an acknowledgment of the China challenge. If a global war was to erupt today, it would likely start in our region. Much of Asia is a tinderbox.

Historian Michael Auslan has identified war and economic stagnation as the two biggest risks to what has been called “the Asia century”.

The Asia-Pacific is the most militarised region in the world. It’s home to some of the world’s largest armies, technologically advanced fighting machines, nuclear armed states and added to that, a massive American military presence.

Added to the military muscle is an incendiary mix of history: old bitter enmities, existential stand-offs, and a fierce competition for scarce resources.

Australia could be tripped into wider conflict

Much of these simmering tensions coalesce around territorial disputes, notably the Diaoyu-Senkaku islands claimed by Japan and China and the islands of the South China Sea.

Chinese military base near Galwan Valley.

In recent weeks we have seen Chinese and Indian troops clash along their disputed border. Any of these disputes could rapidly escalate, tripping us all into a wider conflict.

Right now, military strategists in Beijing and Washington are preparing for just an eventuality. And we know what that could look like.

In 2015, Global think tank the Rand Corporation prepared a report for the American military, and its title could not have been more direct: War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable.

Taiwanese Military is preparing to repeal Chinese agression.

It concluded that China would suffer greater casualties than the US if war was to break out now.

However, it cautioned, that as China’s military muscle increased, so would the prospect of a prolonged destructive war.

War is no longer unthinkable

China is building a military to fight that war. It has increased its defence spending seven-fold over the past 20 years. It now officially spends around $180 billion a year on its military, but analysts believe the real figure is much higher.

It is focusing on its maritime power, building a blue water navy, submarines and missiles. It is pursuing what is known anti-access/area denial (A2/AD), an air, land and sea strategy to tie up and slow down advancing enemy forces.

HMAS Canberra (L02), a Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock ship, arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for Rim of the Pacific 2016. Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 30 to Aug. 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

The US is still much more powerful than China and spends more than $700 billion a year on defence. But it’s also much more stretched, committing troops and fighting conflicts around the world, while China focuses on the home front.

China’s leader Xi Jinping has warned that conflict between China and the US “would lead to disaster for both countries and the world at large”. But war is no longer unthinkable, and Australia is arming itself.

As the old adage goes: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

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