China is a military superpower, ranked second in the world. Only the US or perhaps Russia could even consider going toe-to-toe with China’s huge war machine.
But in the past week, three senior Australian politicians have hinted that they might be willing to go to war with China over Taiwan.
On April 25 – marked as a national day of remembrance for the war dead in Australia and New Zealand – Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said that the chance of a conflict involving China over Taiwan “should not be discounted”.
While he stressed in his Anzac Day address that “nobody wants to see a conflict between China and Taiwan or anywhere else” he made it clear that people needed to be “realistic” about China’s increasing militarisation of the region and the long-standing “animosity between Taiwan and China”.
On the same day Mike Pezzullo, a senior official at Australia’s Home Affairs department, warned that global “drums of war” were beating and that Australians must be ready for conflict in the South China Sea.
In his Anzac Day speech, he said: “In a world of perpetual tension and dread, the drums of war beat – sometimes faintly and distantly, and at other times more loudly and ever closer.
“Today, as free nations again hear the beating drums and watch worryingly the militarisation of issues that we had, until recent years, thought unlikely to be catalysts for war.
“Let us continue,” he added, “to search unceasingly for the chance for peace while bracing again, yet again, for the curse of war.”
In response to the dramatic speech, his colleague, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, told Nine News “The overarching message from government is that we need to be alert but not alarmed.
“We’re obviously very conscious as a government of what is happening in the Pacific region, in particular,” she added.
And only days later Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the $580 million AUS (£324m) upgrade of four airbases in the north of the country, as well as plans for increased military cooperation with the United States.
The expansion of the bases is part of a long-term defence spending plan that is intended to strengthen Australia’s long-range strike capability at the cost of some $270 billion (£151bn).
Morrison said that military strength was the only way to ensure lasting peace.
“Our objective is a free and open Indo-Pacific, to ensure a peaceful region, one that, at the same time, Australia is in a position to always protect its interests,” he told reporters.