Australia must face reality over China's actions

China’s decision to launch missiles, fly warplanes over Taiwan and even encroach into Japanese territory on the pretext of being offended at Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has further demonstrated the potential dangers in Xi Jinping’s strategies.

It also underscores the importance of Australia taking a firmly realistic view of the current situation and holding the line against coercion, foreign interference and calls for appeasement.

Xi Jinping’s regime openly asserts that it wishes to bring Taiwan under its control. It acts in ways that seek to dominate our region. Its pathway towards these aims has seen China act aggressively and outside of international norms – whether that’s militarising the South China Sea, border skirmishes with India, warplanes dangerously ‘buzzing’ Australian and Canadian aircraft, and its current actions in Taiwan.

These are all deliberate choices by the Chinese Government that, left without criticism, risk becoming accepted behaviour. Yet on each occasion the CCPs ‘wolf warriors’ circulate implausible claims that China is merely responding to threatening behaviour from others. We’ve seen the issuing of the Chinese Embassy’s spurious ‘14 grievances’, the nonsensical rationale for trade sanctions applied to our exports, and now the ludicrous claim that Speaker Pelosi’s visit threatened China and warranted the firing of live missiles over Taiwan.

These tactics – including the regular outbursts at both the current and previous Australian Governments – are attempts to stir up local public sentiment to prevent Australia taking necessary decisions in our national interest. It’s unfortunate that some commentators have been inclined to bolster the Chinese Government’s tactics by blaming Australia for these calculated actions. Perhaps those critics, including some members of the Albanese Government who used to partly blame the former Government for tensions in the relationship, can now see that there’s no easy pathway in the face of authoritarian actions.

Based on its current actions there is a real risk that the Chinese Government will continue to undertake dangerous acts designed to achieve its goals. That’s why the former Chief of Defence Force Sir Angus Houston recently described the current strategic environment as the worst he’s seen in his lifetime. It’s equally clear that as China undertakes these actions it will continue to claim it does so in retaliation to provocation by other nations, including Australia. We shouldn’t buy into these tactics. It is not Australia’s or any other country’s fault that the Chinese Government chooses to act as it does.

Recognising this, we should remain calm and rational in our strategy and not be deterred or distracted by propaganda which aims to make the international community second-guess ourselves.

That’s why the Federal Opposition strongly supports the Australian Government holding firm on protecting our national interests, and building strong alliances with other nations concerned about the Chinese Government’s behaviour.

While this behaviour is concerning and undoubtedly heightens the risk of conflict, conflict is not inevitable. The build up of China’s military assets is undoubtedly troubling for many nations in the region. Yet there is great influence in countries like Japan, the US, India, South Korea, ASEAN nations and Australia working towards peace and stability. Australia has been at the forefront of building these partnerships and should continue to be.

We must also increase our own self-reliance, both militarily and economically. There is strong bipartisan support to ensure our defence force builds a strong deterrence capability, and to increase our economy’s resilience by being able to produce more of the critical goods and resources we need here in Australia and in partnership with our close allies.

Europe’s continuing reliance on Russian energy supply, while simultaneously attempting to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, provides a stark lesson about dependence. It’s critical that we learn from the way in which Russia signposted its intentions in advance and created a narrative both to support the invasion and deter other nations from intervening.

The challenge for Australia is to prepare ourselves to prevent similar catastrophes occurring in our region.