AUSTRALIA should prepare for a Chinese military strike as experts warn of a dangerous escalation of “gangster diplomacy”.
Any attack would most likely occur with the sinking or ramming of an Australian naval vessel in the South China Sea, according to Prof Joseph Siracusa who heads the International Diplomacy Department at Melbourne’s RMIT University.
Another expert, Mr Peter Jennings – a former deputy secretary of strategy within the Australian Defence Department – said on Saturday that Beijing’s global policy of bully, brinkmanship and backdown was driving the Indo-Pacific closer to conflict.
Prof Siracusa said Australia was being targeted by China because of its close relationship with the United States.
“Australia is seen as an ally of the United States so I think when Australia takes a hit, what China is doing is probing,” he said during a Sky News interview. [see below]
“They want to know what Australia’s going to do when and if China comes down hard on Hong Kong – and they will.
“They want to know what Australia’s going to do when and if the United States does nothing about the Taiwan Strait.
“Australia should be on guard now because the Chinese might want to probe America by knocking Australia around, for example, shooting at a cruiser in the China Sea.”
Prof Siracusa, an American who was formerly based in Chicago, said Australia would need to increase its ties with the United States, India and Japan.
“Australia is seen as one of those places where America can disperse its strategic assets and Australia sees the United States as a defence against Chinese incursions in the area.
“The Chinese are not going to invade Australia but they will turn Australia’s region into a Chinese lake.”
Prof Siracusa predicted Australia would continue to “take a lot of heat”.
“If China wants to send a message to the United States, one of the best ways is to sink an Australian ship – or even ram it – to see if the United States will do anything for Australia,” he said.
“Because Australia on its own can’t do much about this.”
Former Defence Department deputy secretary of strategy Peter Jennings, who is currently executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, warned that a fertile ground for war was being laid.
“China’s brinkmanship is designed to see how much pressure Beijing can pile onto Australia before we metaphorically tap the mat,” he wrote in Saturday’s Weekend Australian newspaper.
“If we take the punishment without complaining, more pressure will be added.”
Mr Jennings said he saw Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s response to cyber attacks as a way of pushing back against Beijing.
“The problem is that President Xi’s ‘wolf warrior’ instincts have eliminated all trust in any engagement with Beijing,” he wrote.
“In the absence of trust there is no dialogue and in the absence of dialogue no ability to know when or how to step back from the military brink.”
“This is fertile ground for war.”PC