Australia could face a major crisis if “Cold War” diplomatic tensions between the United States and China erupt into military conflict in Taiwan.
That’s the view of Australian National University China expert Jane Golley, co-editor of China Story Yearbook 2020: Crisis, to be released on Wednesday.
Professor Golley will appear alongside China’s deputy head of mission Wang Xining at the National Press Club launch of the new free online book.
In her speech, she will note a chapter from Taiwan scholar Wen-ti Tsung who writes the island’s strategy of staying close to America and on good terms with China is coming to an end.
“I realised in reading this piece that Taiwan’s strategy of dual alignment resonates with the way Australia has conducted its bilateral relationships with the US and China in the past,” Professor Golley will say.
ANU’s director of the Australian centre on China in the world says the “new normal” of increasingly tense relations between western nations and Beijing.
“This new normal makes life particularly uncomfortable for two other places: Taiwan and Australia,” she will say.
“As the most likely flashpoint for military conflict between the US and China, a crisis for Taiwan could easily mean a crisis for Australia too.
“And that would make the world far far more uncomfortable than the Cold War I think we are already in.”
In a chapter on the trade tensions between China and Australia, Victor Ferguson and Darren J. Lim focus on the worst-affected commodities including wine, beef and barley.
The authors contend China’s economic coercion is unlikely to hinge on completely upending its trading relationship with Australia.
Instead, Beijing favours striking a balance between political pressure and signalling displeasure while being able to deny the sanctions are official.
“There is a clear need to deepen understanding of the nature of political risk in the economic relationship with China.”
Mr Wang didn’t pull any punches at his last press club appearance in August when he revealed the depth of China’s anger with the federal government’s push for a coronavirus inquiry.
In December, he criticised Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s response to a doctored image in a social media post about alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.
Journalist Michael Smith, who has reported on China for more than two decades, will also join the panel.