A SECRET chapter in the Rudd government’s 2009 defence 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.
In the lead-up to the release of the paper in May 2009, The Australian reported extensively on the debate among Australia’s security and intelligence agencies over whether China was likely to pose a threat as it increased investment in its armed forces.
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”.
As well, the new book’s author, The Australian’s economics editor David Uren, reveals that 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.
“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 …
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