On Wednesday, Australia’s intelligence chief said, a “troubling new strategic convergence” is taking place between China and Russia. The risk of a “major power conflict” has grown following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
China’s President Xi Jinping appears to want to dominate the Indo-Pacific region and use it as a base to overtake the United States as the world’s leading power.
His comments reinforce warnings that the Russian invasion of Ukraine may potentially spread into a regional or a global conflict.
Earlier this week, Australian Prime Minister called on liberal democracies to stop an “arc of autocracy” reshaping the world.
“We’re going to have to work much harder to maintain the liberal quality of the rules-based order in Europe and here in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Shearer at a conference hosted by the Australian Financial Review. “We see a leader who’s really battening down and hardening his country for this struggle to overtake the United States as the world’s leading power” he said referring to Xi.
“The base camp … is to establish primacy in the Indo-Pacific region.”
He went on to add, the geopolitical threat would centre around technology, including the use of cyberattacks, which means, Australia must bolster its cyber defences without closing itself to trade and information-sharing.
“We need a growing, open economy so we can fund the increases in defence spending that the government’s committed to, but this can’t be a zero sum trade-off between economics and security,” said Shearer.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which it has called a “special operation”, Australian intelligence professionals considered that “a major power conflict unfortunately is becoming a less remote prospect than it was previously”, said Shearer.
Echoing Western commentators he said, he was surprised by the effectiveness of the Ukrainian resistance. He however foresees, a “brutal, bloody couple of weeks” since Putin had “everything at stake now (and) it’s hard to see an elegant, or inelegant, dismount”. Putin has described the invasion of Ukraine as a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and cleanse it of neo-Nazis.