Australia would need to significantly boost defence spending and expand its armed forces to ensure its security against the likelihood of a rising China challenging the United States, a leading strategic thinker warned yesterday.
Speaking to an audience of senior Government officials, defence contractors and lawyers at a forum sponsored by the law firm Deacons, Australian National University strategic studies professor Hugh White said the Rudd Government’s forthcoming Defence white paper needed to address fundamental strategic challenges.
Professor White said the deep question was how China’s economic rise would change the strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and it was hard to escape the conclusion that the United States would lose primacy, or that primacy would be contested.
”This has immense implications for Australia,” Professor White said.
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”The eclipse of Western maritime primacy in Asia [will be] a very big event in our national history.
”If United States primacy fades, we will face higher risks of conflict with a major Asian power either in the company of the United States or alone.”
Professor White believes the future strategic environment will require much larger air and naval forces to achieve Australia’s maritime denial strategy.
Specifically the proposed acquisition of 100 Joint Strike Fighters would not necessarily preserve Australia’s ”traditional margin of technological superiority” over regional airforces.
”Confidence that the Joint Strike Fighters will provide a decisive technological edge is not going to happen,” he said.