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Australian Current Affairs

Australia won’t be drawn into ‘mythical’ US-China war says defence consultant


Julia Gillard

Julia Gillard

The view that war between the US and China is inevitable and that Australia will be drawn into such a conflict is a dangerous miscalculation, says defence white paper author Paul Dibb.

The comments to be made tonight by Mr Dibb will follow those by Julia Gillard, who yesterday deplored “false modesty” in our relationship with China and described Australia as “a feisty, activist polity, boxing smart, overachieving in global affairs”.

The Prime Minister told a China conference organised by the Australian Davos Connection in Melbourne: “We should never be misled into thinking of ourselves as outclassed in the world or hanging on for the final bell”.

Speaking to the Australian Institute of International Affairs in Canberra, Professor Dibb will tonight warn that Australia should not boost defence spending to the 3 or 4 per cent of GDP suggested by some commentators on the basis of a “mythical threat” from China.

The emeritus professor at the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre says a major war between China and the US is unlikely, though a minor conflict that could be contained is possible if territorial disputes escalated. “Is China going to be the dominant military power in our region any time in the foreseeable future?” he will ask. “The answer to that is no.”

And should the US therefore make strategic space to allow China to have a sphere of influence in Southeast Asia?

“The answer to that is also no,” he will say.

Professor Dibb will say analysts need to understand China’s weaknesses before beating the drum about its military power. It has been noted that China is a fragile superpower highly dependent on trade, and “If you go to war, any guarantees of international trade continuing vanish overnight,” he will say. “While China is developing its military, it is not the former Soviet Union and it is not exporting revolution and it is most unlikely to invade other countries.”

While there may be incidents at sea between Chinese and Japanese warships that could involve the Americans, Professor Dibb does not believe such incidents will trigger a full scale war.

The nations involved are aware that such a conflict is likely to turn nuclear and their economies are so interlinked that they simply cannot afford to let it happen.

In her Melbourne speech, Ms Gillard re-presented key domestic policies as contributors to her foreign affairs success in China in the past fortnight. She detailed the strategy that led to the agreements for regular meetings of top leaders between the countries — with Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Defence Secretary Dennis Richardson, then foreign affairs head, sent to Beijing to test the prospects, followed by her phone call congratulating Li Keqiang on becoming premier.

“Australia has fully earned the diplomatic success of the past fortnight,” she said.

This “serves as a valuable example of the strengths of Australia’s standing in the world — and offers a ‘counsel of moderation’ to some currents of thinking and debate at home.”

If the China relationship was all about raw materials, “our navy wouldn’t be the first Western partner for live firing exercises with the People’s Liberation Army navy” — another arrangement confirmed during her visit.

“We have never been simply a quarry or a beach.”

Source: The Australian – Talk of US-China war ‘is a dangerous miscalculation’
 
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