Australia must pull back from a war with China, forum told

Anti-AUKUS protest in Sydney in September. Photo: Aman Kapoor

The so-called China threat was discussed at a webinar on November 30 of around 150 people.

Organised by Australians for War Powers Reform (AWPR), it was addressed by Hugh White, emeritus professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University and Michael Sainsbury, a freelance journalist based in south east Asia. Broadcaster Quentin Dempster was the chair.

White said the danger of a war with China was real as “Taiwan has become the flashpoint in the growing rivalry between the United States and China”.

He said Australia “should definitely not go to war with China in support of the US”. It would “not be like previous US wars in Asia — it would almost certainly become World War III.”

The danger of a devastating nuclear war would be very real, White said.

China has recently built its nuclear arsenal up to more than 300, in comparison to the US and Russia which own more than 90% of all nuclear warheads.

“The mainstream media has moved in the last few years from praising China as a great partner, to a return to the rhetoric of ‘Yellow Peril’,” Sainsbury said. “Everyone has jumped on board the anti-China campaign.”

White said that the Australia Britain US military alliance (AUKUS) is a “huge escalation” and “a mistake” in government policy. The plan to acquire US nuclear-powered submarines, even though they will not be ready until around 2050, sends the US the message: “We are with you, come what may”.

Australia’s hosting of the nuclear-capable B-52 bombers at Tindal base in the Northern Territory represents “a combat operation” White said. “AUKUS encourages the US to decide to go to war with China.”

Sainsbury said that AUKUS, stationing US marines and the upgrade of the Pine Gap spy base “sends the wrong signal to the US, to China and to the countries of the South East Asian region” and all without Australians being consulted. “Australia needs much greater liaison with Indonesia, Vietnam and other Asian countries,” he said.

White said it was “unfortunate” that Labor is just as committed to the anti-China plan as the former Coalition government. “We need a change in direction,” he said.

Both speakers agreed that funds should not be spent on raising defence spending when “there are a lot of things to spend money on, other than defence”.

An AWPR statement calling for constitutional changes to mandate federal parliament to vote before any Australian forces are sent to participate in overseas conflicts. Currently, the prime minister and executive make the decision.

[Visit Australians for War Powers Reform for more information.]