China’s state media recently threatened a military attack against Australia with both long-range H-6K bombers and missiles. The threat came the same day that Australia’s prime minister expressed support for Taiwan and said that, “We always have stood for freedom in our part of the world.”
China’s latest threat, made on May 7 by the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, Hu Xijin, reveals Australia’s military vulnerability to a far larger and more powerful nuclear-armed China. The Global Times is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Given Hu’s threat, which is consistent with the larger pattern of China’s aggression, the United States and allies should immediately support Australia in obtaining an independent submarine-based nuclear deterrent, so that Australia can join countries such as the United States, France, Britain, and India as powerful global defenders of freedom and democracy. The independent strength of individual members of an alliance improves the overall strength of the alliance.
Australia has a limited window of opportunity in which to go nuclear, after which China’s rising power and regional hegemony will make an independent nuclear Australia impossible. At that point, which could be as soon as 5 or 10 years, the window will close and China could more effectively use nuclear brinkmanship, control of Asian seas, checkbook diplomacy, and its economic trading power, to break Australia from its allies, and bring it under Beijing’s dominance.
NATO should welcome Australia into its alliance as a full member, before China has a chance to create a territorial dispute down under, and thereby make Australian accession more difficult. If Washington came under the influence of Beijing, the bilateral U.S.-Australia alliance would be useless to Australia’s defense.
NATO should no longer be a purely Atlantic affair, given globalization and the rise of China. What matters today in choosing our closest allies is not geography, but shared values in support of democracy, as well as the inclusion of a broader diversity of allies, including countries like Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, that will strengthen the alliance in resisting Beijing’s growing preponderance of power. Today, China has strong alliance partners in Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Welcoming Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and other autocratic powers into an alliance with democracies will keep them from turning against us, and strengthen us all.
The Global Times article includes a prominent photo of an H-6K nuclear-capable bomber flying in formation with two Chinese military Su-35 fighter jets. The caption notes that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force (PLAAF) conducted “patrol training over China’s island of Taiwan on Friday.” The planes reportedly flew over the Bashi Channel for the first time, marking a “new breakthrough in island patrol patterns.” China almost daily threatens Taiwan’s sovereignty with fighter jet flights that force Taiwan to scramble, and thus degrade, its own jets in defense. China also frequently pushes its land, maritime, and air boundaries against Japan, India, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam, and the Philippines. The same may soon be true for Australia.
“Given that Australian hawks keep hyping or hinting that Australia will assist the US military and participate in war once a military conflict breaks out in the Taiwan Straits, and the Australian media outlets have been actively promoting the sentiment, I suggest China make a plan to impose retaliatory punishment against Australia once it militarily interferes in the cross-Straits situation,” writes Hu. He therefore thinks that China has a right to attack Australia, and apparently believes that a war over Taiwan is not a question of if, but when.
“The plan [to attack Australia] should include long-range strikes on the military facilities and relevant key facilities on Australian soil if it really sends its troops to China’s offshore areas and combats against the PLA,” Hu writes. “If they [Australian hawks] are bold enough to coordinate with the US to militarily interfere in the Taiwan question and send troops to the Taiwan Straits to wage war with the PLA, they must know what disasters they would cause to their country.”
Such fighting words follow the Global Times’ demonization of Australia, and the entire Five-Eyes Alliance (United States, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand) as an “axis of white supremacy.” This characterization is obviously false given the multiethnic nature of these democracies’ leadership, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, current U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris, and current New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta. Yet, the accusation will have currency with some given the colonial history of the Five-Eyes countries, and their current very public and laudable attempts to combat racism within their borders.
Conversely, China’s all-powerful 7-member Politburo Standing Committee are all Han males who resolutely deny the existence of racism in China while at the same time engaging in genocide against their Uyghur minority. The real “axis of racial supremacy” is therefore not between the Five-Eyes, but between Beijing and Moscow.
Australia is not the only country that needs an independent nuclear deterrent and membership in NATO. A similar logic applies to other democracies, including Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand, Ukraine, and Georgia, that are under threat from powerful nuclear-armed dictators. All of these countries should be encouraged to join NATO and obtain independent submarine-based nuclear deterrents.
NATO should also strengthen itself by encouraging its most powerful and democratic members, including Germany, Italy, and Canada, to obtain independent nuclear deterrent forces. Against a nuclear-armed foe, no country can entirely rely on another for its defense. Frequent breach of contract between democratic allies, such as the United States and Canada, Britain and the European Union, and Italy and Ireland, over vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, proves that even democracies violate agreements with each other over issues of far less consequence than military conflict in the nuclear age.
Only democracies should have nuclear weapons, because only democracies have the sovereign legitimacy that free and broad-based political participation provides and that tends to (but unfortunately has not always) limited the use of such weapons against civilian targets. But democracies should come to the defense of allied autocracies, for example Saudi Arabia, which is under military pressure from Iran, and Vietnam, which is under threat from China. Maintenance of global political diversity requires the protection of these less powerful autocracies, with all their failings, from larger autocratic threats. Less powerful autocratic allies will eventually undergo a natural and peaceful political evolution towards democracy and improved human rights.
Democracies must not only defend themselves, but the international system of diverse nation-states, in order to keep China and Russia from creating a sufficiently powerful alliance to fold the world’s less powerful states into their plans for regional hegemony and the resulting balkanization and destabilization of the post-1945 rules-based international system. States under threat from these aspiring illiberal hegemons must band together in a powerful alliance, but be sufficiently strong individually, to independently defend their own sovereignty.
Anders Corr has a bachelor’s/master’s in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.