Where Oz goes, we go? To war with China?

Written By: - Date published: 9:28 pm, February 17th, 2024 - 38 comments
Categories: AUKUS, australian politics, China, defence, Diplomacy, Pacific, Peace, us politics - Tags:

Testifying to the Defence Select Committee last week, Air Marshal Short said Australia was “reshaping” its Defence Force for “a singular threat from a singular direction.” This was described as being an oblique reference to China.

AM Short went on to say:

“They are putting a huge amount of effort into that and they are making decisions every day about how they will equip their force and where they will compromise and put money somewhere else. So to put money into longer range, more accurate weapon systems they are making sure that their ships have those systems fitted.

In other short range or defensive systems … they’re saying ‘no, that’s a lower priority, we won’t do it’. So they’re shifting their priority.”

For longer range, more accurate systems read AUKUS and offensive capability, aimed at China. Ever since the British debacle at Singapore in 1942, where the Australian Division was involved in the surrender, Australia has pinned its defence alliance to the United States. Where America goes, they go.

Th United States has has prescribed China as its principal strategic threat, and declared that it is engaged in active competition with it, sanctioning its IT systems in an attempt to knock its economy back. Its not working, even as the US is also currently engaged in supporting other wars, providing essential weaponry to Ukraine and Israel. That’s not working either, even as it causes innocents to suffer on a monumental scale.

To his credit, Air Marshal Short appears to have pushed back against the Australians:

New Zealand was instead trying to retain a “balanced force” built for a range of possibilities, not a singular threat, Short said.

He said the Australians understood that, but they also want to make sure that on their western flank there is a strong defence force, and we’re in discussions about what they mean by that.

We’d all like to know what they mean by that. We’ve got the Poseidons, and they could fly up and down the Tasman Sea to search for submarines, or out toward Fiji to head off any Chinese landing craft coming our way on the 60,000km invasion flotilla that some seem to be fearing.

The Aussies are shirt-fronting specialists, and good on the Air Marshal for standing up to them. But we should not be forced into being Australia’s backstop if they plan to join the United State aggressive containment war against China. China wants to focus on trade not war, and so should we.

And there are plenty of people in Australia with a different view. They are als good at recognising bullshit. As so often, the satirists are on the money:

The best way we can assist is to stay out of other peoples’ wars in AUKUS, see China as a trading partner not an enemy, and focus on civil defence for ourselves and in the Pacific.

38 comments on “Where Oz goes, we go? To war with China? ”

  1. Anne 1

    I recall Air Marshal Short back in the late 1980s early 1990s at the Whenuapai Air Base. Pretty sure it is the same fellow. He was a navigator (flying officer status) in those days – a fresh faced young man with a friendly grin.. He strikes me as a steady as she goes type of leader who will not be easily slotted into some ideological position to satisfy our bigger and stronger partners across the Tasman – and elsewhere.

    Lets hope I'm right.

  2. Francesca 2

    Thanks for your tireless work Mike , and for keeping on posting
    It gives me heart

  3. tsmithfield 3

    There won't be war with China. The economic blow-back would destroy them. Starting with a sea blockade that would stop the flow of goods in and out of China via sea.

    India, as part of the QUAD, has positioned themselves strategically for this purpose. The other thing is, there is a very good chance that China would lose the war. So, it would be highly risky for them to try.

    For example, the effectiveness of cheap sea drones in the Ukraine conflict is likely to make the Chinese very wary of sending their navy to say invade Taiwan, when Taiwan would likely have been taking note of the success the Ukrainians have had, and will probably be arming themselves in a similar way.

    • weston 3.1

      Navies around the world will no doubt be interested in the American /Ukrainian partnership which has been successful recently in the sinking of several Russian ships using sea drones .Of course its not likely to take very long before viable counter measures against this type of drone come along and the sea drone will become a historical oddity .Thats what happens in warfare .

      • tsmithfield 3.1.1

        I understand they are testing a submarine kamikaze drone at the moment, which would be a lot harder to detect. Something really nasty would be to have one that cruises undersea at about 100 metres deep or so, and then launches up vertically at the underside of a ship hull.

        • joe90 3.1.1.1

          I'd be surprised if there weren't autonomous, unmanned vessels operating at depth carrying out maintenance, sea bed survey, surveillance, sabotage, mine laying/clearing tasks and patrolling in hunter/killer roles thousands of kilometres from home.

    • SPC 3.2

      The start of any confrontation would be a blockade on Taiwan and a warning that any attack on the Chinese navy (from say drones) would result in missile attacks on Taiwan.

      Any attempt by the American fleet to lift the blockade, would risk their being sunk by fast missiles from China.

      The risk of this increases once the West is no longer dependent on chips made in Taiwan – so can avoid confrontation.

      AUKUS 1 is not about defence of Taiwan, it is about sea lanes – to Japan and South Korea – as per South China Sea.

      PS The technology for army and navy battery powered laser weapons to take out missiles is a known (and a version for drones with it). Probably not soon enough to contest for Taiwan – peak risk late 2020’s.

      • tsmithfield 3.2.1

        I agree that the blockade scenario of Taiwan is more likely than an outright invasion.

        A lot would depend on whether the QAUD group would step in to help. I agree that Taiwan wouldn't be able to withstand an attack from China on its own.

        From what I have seen of war game scenarios, the west ends up winning, but at a large cost. Hence, why I said that China would be very cautious about starting an outright war with the west.

        The ability to blockade the Malacca Strait is a difficult one to solve with missile attacks. That video I pointed to explains how India owns strategic islands at the edge of the Malacca strait, and is building military bases there. So, the ability to blockade the Malacca strait is a very real threat the Chinese would have to consider, and not one that would be easy for them to solve.

        There is no love lost between India and China, given their disputes in the mountains over water issues.

        Another point is that China isn’t the only one with missiles. Depending on how suicidal the Taiwanese were feeling, they could cause a lot of damage to China as well with their own missiles.

        I know that TSMC has been building other plants in the likes of the US. But, their fastest and most advanced chips are still built in Taiwan as far as I know, for the very reason you point to I think.

        • SPC 3.2.1.1

          Sure there are a number of circles in play – around Taiwan, then the South and East China Sea, and then further afield involving the Malacca Straits etc. The third is one way to manage the second – but until Taiwan is resolved, China will focus on a military build-up approach.

          • Ad 3.2.1.1.1

            There is nothing wrong with Taiwanese society and its government right now. Of course its political delivery could improve. So could ours.

            https://www.brookings.edu/articles/taiwans-democracy-and-the-china-challenge/

            Tainwan's primary problem is the constant and real threat of military invasion from mainland China.

            • SPC 3.2.1.1.1.1

              There is no reason Taiwan could not operate much as it does now, autonomous, but formally within China.

              • aj

                George Yeo is a voice of reason, with his proposal to create

                some kind of Chinese commonwealth", whereby there wouldn't be a common executive (so it wouldn't be the PRC taking over the ROC or vice versa), or any executive at all, but both sides would meet from time to time to "talk about trade, cooperation, problems, agree on certain principles, etc". He likens it to the old Icelandic commonwealth

                https://twitter.com/RnaudBertrand/status/1738420734933000208

                • Ad

                  That could be achieved if the Chinese military packed up and fucked off.

                  Except what it is doing, instead, is regularly war-gaming the invasion of Taiwan.

              • Ad

                It already does so, obviously.

                • SPC

                  Formal arrangements do not currently exist

                  • aj

                    Yes a formal arrangement which accomates the political position of both countries. Diplomacy, in good faith, to remove the need for war.

                  • Ad

                    UN resolution 2758 recognising China's integration of Taiwan has been passed for over 50 years.

                    Only 11 countries do not recognise Taiwan to be a part of China. New Zealand is not one of them. Taiwan has diplomatic relations with 193 countries.

                    So of course that is formal. OMG.

                    Taiwan is successful, and should continue to be allowed to do so. All it would take is for China's military to cease its threats.

                    • Ghostwhowalks

                      General Assembly 2758 doesnt say what you think it does.

                      Its merely the vote to install PRC as the UN member 'China' from the ROC

                      59% yes, 27% no and 13% abstain. NZ voted NO as a lackey of US-Australia and their stooges

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_General_Assembly_Resolution_2758

                      That Taiwan is part of 'One China' is accepted by ROC too – nominally anyway.

                      The idea of 'Taiwan independence' is a controversial one in Taiwan

                    • SPC

                      There is a difference between a cease-fire as per 1953 and peace in Korea.

                      And there is a difference between recognising that the government of the 1945 UN member China was based in Beijing and not Taipei and formal arrangements as per the rule of China, including Taiwan.

              • Belladonna

                Hong Kong, is the reason why no one would believe this is a realistic option.
                All promises by the Chinese government are open to revision as and when Beijing so desires.

                • SPC

                  The Hong Kong deal included full incorporation in 2047 and it was the promotion of democracy within Hong Kong (and offshore in the USA) that led to the crackdown.

                  Those of an autonomous Taiwan (without end) would have no reason to promote democracy, it would simply continue. And China would have no "immediate" agency by which to influence the governance of an autonomous offshore Taiwan.

                  Beijing would note the decline of Hong Kong incorporated into China after 1997 and more recently and have learnt something.

                  • Belladonna

                    Beijing would note the decline of Hong Kong incorporated into China after 1997 and more recently and have learnt something.

                    Unfortunately, the lesson that Beijing has learned, is that once a territory is 'reincorporated' into China, the rest of the world has no influence – and China can renege on agreements as it pleases with no consequences.

                    If you have any evidence that China, under Xi, has the slightest motivation to permit (let alone encourage) local autonomy, then perhaps you could share it.

                    • SPC

                      The crackdown only occurred after locals and Americans called for democracy – something not in the 1997 agreement/

                      Chinese insistence as per Taiwan has been, that it continue to recognise it is part of China, stop buying weapons from the Americans and not declare independence.

                      Taiwan for its part wants to remain autonomous/self governing – a formal agreement that it can do this within China ends the impasse.

                    • Ghostwhowalks

                      Democracy in the terms of the existing Hong Kong autonomy system being maintained for 50 years was in the Sino- UK Agreement

                      One country two systems was the name , which you have forgotten

                      Or do you consider Hong Kong having the same system as the mainland as what was intended, and the specific change by Beijing to reduce the numbers of representatives elected by the public . ie limited democracy already existed before hand over

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legislative_Council_of_Hong_Kong

                      China merely says the agreement is null and void and doesnt even try to justify its reneging

        • SPC 3.2.1.2

          Yes TSMC are building plants for 2nm chips in Taiwan – the ones being built in the USA are 3nm (enough for local supply). China has yet to build any 3nm plants.

          Which makes the TSMC plants in Taiwan a global scale asset.

          • Ghostwhowalks 3.2.1.2.1

            Samsung's 3 nm chip narrows microchip gap with TSMC

            Samsung starts mass production of the world's smallest chip as a global first and ahead of sector leader TSMC

            https://www.kedglobal.com/korean-chipmakers/newsView/ked202206300016

            TSMC is also producing 6nm chips in 2 plants in Japan, so they are off shoring heavily already in the latest small nm scale chips

            A few years back the 9nm size was thought leading edge!

            China currently spends as much on importing chips as it does on oil.

          • tsmithfield 3.2.1.2.2

            TSMC should explore making their computer components with nuclear power.

            Then they might be making fission chips, lol.

  4. Ad 4

    The public version of the 2023 ADF Defence Review did not label China a direct military threat to Australia, but said China’s assertion of sovereignty over the contested South China Sea “threatens the global rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific in a way that adversely impacts Australia’s national interests”. It labelled the competition between China and the United States “the defining feature of our region and our time”.

    China has wiped out democracy in Hong Kong in 2022, and consistent threatens invasion of Taiwan in Xi's speeches, so their threat to liberal democracy is real. This is an entirely different diplomatic moment to Helen Clark and Phil Goff signing an FTA with Wen Jiabao in 2008.

    The percentage of Australians that believe China will be a direct military threat to Australia in the next 20 years has jumped massive to a strong majority over the last two years. This is unsurprising after China's trade embargo against Australia.

    https://poll.lowyinstitute.org/charts/china-as-a-military-threat/

    That New Zealand sends over 30% of its trade without diversifying since the increased threats from China is our risk to solve, not some arcane satire.

    This strain of leftie commentary that seeks to withdraw from defence is identical to the US Republicans starving weapons to the Ukrainians – which makes it far more likely that Russia will indeed crush Ukraine.

    • SPC 4.1

      Hong Kong had no democracy prior to 1997.

      The British empire had a habit of enabling its settler nations emancipation (USA 1776, Oz 1901, 1907-47 New Zealand) prior to the others it ruled over – such as India 1947.

      But because Hong Kong was dependent on land acquired for 100 years only in 1897, it had to pass Hong Kong back to China and did so in a 50 year agreement. During that period Hong Kong would have a form of autonomy. It did not provide for democratic self government – the American support for democracy in Hong Kong led to the crackdown. American support for Taiwan's continued separation from China could well lead to a blockade and worse.

      Any American intent to fight for Taiwan (part of China in international law) is absurd – they won't fight for Ukraine an actual member of the UN.

      It's embarrassing to talk about international law in the South China Sea when the USA respect for it is so inconsistent.

      Democracy in Taiwan, they allowed the Taleban back into power in Afghanistan – their values are so suspect.

      We need the UN to step up

      1. Ask China, an important UNSC member, to guarantee South Korean security, so American forces can leave and a permanent peace signed (involving North Korea getting rid of its nukes).

      2. Have China offer Taiwan a deal that it cannot refuse – permanent autonomy – on concluding a formal arrangement over being part of China.

      3. A formal ban on the supply of weapons to nations involved in aggressive actions against member nations of the UN.

      • tsmithfield 4.1.1

        I agree that the US wouldn't get involved just for Taiwan's sake. But, they might if there are wider strategic concerns. In this respect, the goals for AUKUS, the QUAD, and the defence of Taiwan aren't mutually exclusive.

        The South China Sea in itself is an important trade route, and control of Taiwan would give China control over that. And, there is also concern that control of Taiwan would give China much easier strategic access to the wider Pacific.

        A lot will depend on whether China believes the US might get involved. If they believe that, then conflict might be unavoidable whether the US intends to get involved or not. That is because most war game scenarios I have seen predict that China would need to launch a first strike against US bases in order to have a chance of winning any conflict.

        On the other hand, the experience of the Patriot systems in Ukraine has shown them to be highly effective against the likes of hyper-sonic missiles. Hence, that may cause a lot of concern for China in attempting to launch a first strike. If that first strike was ineffective, then the Chinese would have a "shitting themselves" moment, because it would be the turn of the US to respond.

        All in all, that is why I think the likely response of the QUAD to any attempt at a longterm blockade of Taiwan would be a reciprocal blockade of the Malacca Strait. The ball would then be in China's court as to what they wanted to do about that. Any military response to the blockade would be a very high risk strategy for China.

        Interesting times.

      • Ad 4.1.2

        Before the British government handed over Hong Kong in 1997, China agreed to allow the region considerable political autonomy for fifty years under a framework known as “one country, two systems.” . Anyone remember that?

        Within two years of that handover all of that was getting dismantled. In 2020 Beijing imposed a sweeping security law. It cracked down on Hong Kong's freedoms, stoking mass protests, arresting people on bullshit charges and essentially eradicating the rights to free association and to expression.

        Sure, Hong Kong was never a full democracy by our standards. But it was under the deal it signed in 1997 working its way towards better representation.

        So as a result of political freedoms being crushed by the central Chinese government, Hong Kong is declining. You cannot trust the Chinese government.

        As a Wall Street Journal editorial said of publisher Jimmy Lai’s imprisonment, there is a real question as to “how a city that holds political prisoners can purport to be a world financial centre … While a financial centre depends on the free flow of information and rule of law, in today’s Hong Kong people can be arrested for expressing the wrong opinion.”

        But sure, let the Chinese government invade Taiwan as well.

        The US "allowed" the Taleban into Afghanistan? The US-led forces fought against the Taleban for 20 years. Yes they lost. The US had nothing to gain from it. Sure they lost and so did the people of Afghanistan. The gains were hard-won, and they are now gone but the US and its allies tried all they could.

        Check out the Chinese military keeping the Red Sea open. Or the Strait of Hormuz open. Nope. Sure, go call for the US to withdraw its troops across south east Asia. You will find the Indonesian, Malaysian, and Philippines response sounds remarkably like the Prime Minister Kaja Kallas of Estonia or the leadership in Finland when Trump again threatened NATO last week.

        And stop trusting that that UN has the power to do anything other than bring aid to disasters.

        • SPC 4.1.2.1

          I write, they allowed the Taleban back into power in Afghanistan

          The US "allowed" the Taleban into Afghanistan? The US-led forces fought against the Taleban for 20 years. Yes they lost. The US had nothing to gain from it. Sure they lost and so did the people of Afghanistan. The gains were hard-won, and they are now gone but the US and its allies tried all they could.

          What is this allowed the Taleban into Afghanistan drivel?

          They did not lose, they ran away. They did not try as hard as they could. A mere 5-10,000 at Kabul in support of the Afghan army responding to any attack on a provincial capital was successful every time.

          They had nothing to gain? Defending the human rights of women not being part of their forever war? Afghanistan in 1980's had a secular government that allowed women rights – the USA backed a mujahadin takeover because the regime was Russian backed. They were owed for the price they paid because of the Cold War.

          Yes Hong Kong would not be the financial centre it was under Chinese rule – most major companies rebased offshore decades ago for that reason. Regardless of how Hong Kong was administered after 1997 – because 2047 would arrive. American nonsense about the agreement enabling democracy in Hong Kong was risible.

          Those who deride the UN, facilitate nonsense about subordination to regional hegemon. The PNAC and Fukuyama era was dead on arrival, their followers are the zombies still among us.

          • Ad 4.1.2.1.1

            You confuse the US role in Afghanistan. Their objective wasn't to build its entire society. Defending human rights was a good side outcome. The US forces certainly provided respite for UN-led reconstruction efforts. Not single UN aid worker is left following that US military departure. But US efforts in the UN didn't end.

            Security Council Renews for One Year Mandate of Team Monitoring Sanctions against Taliban, with Some Regretting Travel Exemptions Not Extended | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases

            Should the US have spent $2 trillion in Afghanistan and multiple thousand of its troops dead and wounded when there is so little to show for it now? That is the reality of intervening on a large scale: you don't control the outcome and success isn't assured. But not intervening in the first place, well, that's the Chinese approach to life.

            And that question of intervention is the one that you and Mike Smith have a clear answer for: withdraw the US military and let the world burn.

            Thank God people like you don't have the power to enable or withhold protection from the people of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Afghanistan, Estonia or indeed New Zealand.

            • SPC 4.1.2.1.1.1

              Petty little shite.

              I was once called a left wing fellow traveller by Peter Dunne, you see he had written an article explaining his United Party liberalism (1999) without mentioning the words human rights, environment or conservation and I wrote a letter to the editor stating that. And that is how he responded.

              Like a petty little shite, who exposed himself as a critic of anyone to his left and using the language of McCarthyism slur.

              While he at first moved to Gordon Copeland and the right, hilariously he later posed as a human rights champion and ally of hunters and fishers etc.

              The ACT Party also are big on western values and supporting Taiwan in the latest Cold War game. The Tamaki MP went to Taiwan and cares nothing for local workers. Nor her party for the Tiriti rights of descendants of women of that island.

              The company one keeps.

              • Ad

                Now answer the question: what consequences will be enabled if as you want the US withdraws its military presence from Japan, Marshall Islands, Korea, and Australia, and withdraws its protection of Taiwan from China?

                Play out the scenario you so clearly want. Do some actual thinking.

                • SPC

                  Stop strawgaming.

                  Show any post of mine that would give any reasonable person the reason to write that.

                  Lying prat.

            • SPC 4.1.2.1.1.2

              Thank God people like you don't have the power to enable or withhold protection from the people of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Afghanistan, Estonia or indeed New Zealand.

              You bring the word God into it do you? Is that how you justify your anger at those who disagree with you. Where did you learn that behaviour?

              First your lies.

              I did not support the withdrawal from Afghanistan – Trump, Biden and you did.

              You were the idiot who confused Estonia with Lithuania.

              You could read this

              https://thestandard.org.nz/open-mike-19-02-2024/#comment-1989820

              It is not New Zealand policy, to fight for Taiwan – not National nor Labour. New Zealand recognises it is part of China, just as Hong Kong has been since 1997.

              Fortunately neither Dunne or Seymour determine our foreign or defence policy.

              A formal agreement to continue the status quo is Taiwan's best hope.

              And that question of intervention is the one that you and Mike Smith have a clear answer for: withdraw the US military and let the world burn.

              Nah, you just want to flame anyone not pro American leadership of our foreign and defence policy.

              You have a western God and empire complex mate. You'd probably vote BN, if in Israel.

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