July 11, 2007


A whole new ball game, but some don't see: Australia's defence doctrine has moved on from the small-army days (Greg Sheridan, July 12, 2007, The Australian)

There were...a number of quite striking features of the update which slipped by mostly unnoticed.

One of the most striking is the unusually robust language concerning China. The update declares that Australia has no better friend in Asia than Japan and proudly recounts the new strategic relationship with Tokyo, clearly putting Japan ahead of China.

The update praises China's economic growth but comments: "But the scope and pace of its military modernisation, particularly the development of new and disruptive capabilities such as the anti-satellite (ASAT) missile (tested in January 2007), could create misunderstandings and instability in the region."

For a public document, this is remarkably frank. It chimes perfectly with US policy, and my guess is it was co-ordinated with Washington. It calls for greater transparency in Chinese military matters.

US policymakers called for transparency after the Chinese anti-satellite test in part because they suspected the Chinese Government itself may not necessarily have had absolute control of the People's Liberation Army, or did not understand all the implications of what the PLA was doing. Our update will be read all over Asia. These words carry a lot of freight. On Taiwan, the update supported the one-China policy, which means Taiwan and China share sovereignty. But it also explicitly supported the status quo, which is de facto Taiwanese independence. It also called on all parties to pursue their interests peacefully, which means China cannot take Taiwan back by force. It even placed the status quo ahead of the one China policy.

On terrorism, the update declared: "Terrorism can have a strategic effect." This may seem to be stating the bleeding obvious, given terrorists' known desire to acquire nuclear weapons. But in the rarefied world of the defence bureaucracy these words have great import. They are an official rebuttal of those strategic analysts, trapped by paradigm paralysis, who see terrorism as essentially a police matter which will never be more troubling than a bad storm.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 11, 2007 1:02 PM
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