AUSTRALIA has been warned to further ramp up defence planning as China utilises aggression to mask its economic decline.
Faced with tumbling economic growth, a collapsing workforce, uncontained debt and political restlessness, experts have warned the Chinese Communist Party is in a world of pain and “unpredictable”.
The CEO of Canberra’s Strategic Forum, Dr Ross Babbage, said all the facts suggested China’s best years were behind it and that it could resort to “international adventures”.
“There is a risk that the leadership might resort to international adventures to distract the public and bolster the regime’s security,” Mr Babbage wrote in The Australian Newspaper this week.
“In this unpredictable environment the Australian government should consider whether its habit of reviewing the strategic outlook every five to eight years … is sound,” Dr Babbage wrote.
“The world is changing fast; we now need a more alert and agile approach.”
Dr Babbage, who is also a senior fellow at Washington DC’s Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, shared his detailed assessment after similar concerns were raised by former US naval intelligence commander John Jordon last month.
“There is a significant level of deception and confusion around the state of China’s internal affairs,” Mr Jordon told Sky News.
“We know what the Chinese Communist Party says it is – we don’t know what it really is,” he said.
Dr Babbage has attempted to provide an outsider’s view of the geo-strategic troubles China is facing.
He said even before the Wuhan virus struck, China’s “official” growth rate had halved since 2007 – but in reality had probably reduced by two thirds from 12 to four per cent.
“China’s national debt exceeds 300 per cent of its GDP and continues to rise faster than any country in peacetime,” he wrote.
“More than 20 per cent of homes in China are vacant, it has record bankruptcies and its workforce is collapsing.
“There are projected to be 45 million fewer workers by 2030 and 200 million fewer by 2050.”
Dr Baggage blamed China’s 35-year one-child policy for this.
He said the nation also faced external pressures.
“Its theft of vast troves of intellectual property, its interference in other societies, its coercion of its neighbours, its extensive espionage operations, its seizure of disputed territories and its infection of the world with SARS, swine flu and COVID-19 are fanning international resistance,” he said.
“The regime finds itself with few international friends, no trusted allies and an alert set of Indo-Pacific nations that are co-operating more closely to thwart its ambitions.”
To top it off, Dr Babbage said, the West was beginning to quickly outflank China in military hardware.
“The Chinese leadership is also starting to realise its vast investment in fourth-generation military capabilities at sea, in the air and in space may be outflanked by impressive new-generation military systems soon to be deployed by the US and its allies.”
These included intercontinental stealth bombers, hypersonic strike missiles and cutting-edge air, land, sea and space robotic systems.PC