2012-06-02 — A secret chapter from the Australian government’s 2009 defense white paper detailed a plan to fight a war with China, in which the navy’s submarines would help blockade its trade routes, and raised the prospect of China firing missiles at targets in Australia in retaliation.
A new book ‘The Kingdom and the Quarry: China, Australia, Fear and Greed’ reveals how Force 2030 set out in the white paper — to include 12 big conventional submarines with missiles, revolutionary Joint Strike Fighters, air warfare destroyers and giant landing ships — was being prepared for a possible war with Australia’s main trading partner.
The public version of the paper stopped short of declaring that war with China was what the authors feared. To avoid offending the Chinese and to create a degree of deniability, discussion of possible future conflict relied on euphemisms such as a “major power adversary.”
David Uren, the book’s author, reveals that the Australian Treasury came under intense pressure to prepare detailed costings for a mass of new equipment but most of that information also disappeared from the public version of the white paper.
The book describes the fierce debate between key figures in the Australian Defence Force, who argued that Australia needed to be prepared for a conflict with China and intelligence agencies that said China was not expansionist and was unlikely to pose such a threat.
A public version excluded a chapter focused on Australia’s ability to fight an air-sea battle alongside the US against China. The plan was for blockades distant from China but designed to control its sea routes and stop the flow of natural resources on which its industrial engine depended.
“Part of the Defence thinking is that in the event of a conflict with the US, China would attempt to destroy Pine Gap, the US-Australia signals facility near Alice Springs, which is crucial for guiding US military operations in Asia … the paper envisages a very different world in which Australian naval operations alongside the US in, say, the South China Sea, could lead to direct Chinese attack on Australia …,” the paper said.
The Beijing media said the white paper was a victory for the “hawks” in Australia’s defense establishment and that was partly because former prime minister Kevin Rudd wanted to show himself to the electorate as tough on China, to show loyalty to the US and to give Australia an excuse to increase its forces.