Australia is locked in a Cold War with China and should prepare for cyber and terror attacks from Beijing, expert warns
- Relations between China and West have deteriorated during Covid pandemic
- Commentator Bruce Wolpe has warned we are in a new cold war with China
- He said war is born out online with competition for dominance of the internet
Western nations are locked in a cold war with China and should brace for cyber and terror attacks, a leading commentator warned on Wednesday.
Bruce Wolpe, a senior fellow at the United States Studies Centre, said Australia should be ready for increased tension between the West and China if Donald Trump wins next week’s presidential election.
His grim prophecy comes after Australia-China relations rapidly deteriorated following Prime Minister Scott Morrison‘s call for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus, which was identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Western nations are locked in a cold war with China, a leading commentator warned on Wednesday. Pictured: Chinese military police officers in Beijing on October 23
Australia should be ready for increased tension between the West and China, said Bruce Wolpe. Pictured: Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017
Since April China has slapped an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley, suspended beef imports and told students and tourists not to travel Down Under in an apparent attempt to damage the Australian economy.
Tensions between China and the US, Australia’s most important ally, have also increased as presidential candidates Trump and Joe Biden vow to take a tough stance against the communist superpower.
The rivalry has been compared to the Cold War between the West and Russia from the end of the Second World War until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The two sides bitterly opposed each other but avoided direct armed clashes.
Referencing British wartime leader Winston Churchill’s depiction of a ‘iron curtain’ separating the West and Russia, Mr Wolpe, who used to work for ex-prime minister Julia Gillard, said a new cold war with China is largely born out online.
‘We have a cold war now with China… there is a silicon curtain descending of the Asia-Pacific. We have two social media platforms, two world wide webs, and there are cyber and terror capabilities. And this is what we are facing,’ he told the National Pres Club in Canberra on Wednesday.
‘Australia is going to have to think long and hard about the consequences if these fears are realised, and they have to think long and hard about them anyway. That is the direction,’ he added.
In June Mr Morrison said Australia was under cyber-attack from a foreign state which government sources said was China. The attack had been targeting industry, schools, hospitals and government officials.
Mr Wolpe said tensions are likely to be worse if the US election is won by Trump, who has repeatedly blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Trump believes that it was deliberate regarding COVID-19 and that China destroyed my economy and almost my presidency.
‘And I think he will launch vengeance on China to balance what almost happened to him,’ he said.
Australia-China relations rapidly deteriorated following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus. Pictured: Military vehicles in Beijing last year
Tensions between China and the US, Australia’s most important ally, have also increased. Pictured: Troops in Beijing last year
Tom Switzer, head of Sydney-based think-tank the Centre for Independent Studies, also said tensions between the West and China will only increase.
‘The cold, hard reality is that as China rises as a great power, its national interests will grow, and it is already seeing a sphere of influence in areas in which its future prosperity and security are dependent,’ he said.
‘I think whoever wins next week, that security competition between China and America will still intensify.’
Mr Switzer said Australia faces the ‘very difficult diplomatic task’ of staying close to the US, its main defence ally, and maintaining relations with China, its biggest trading partner.
In August Mr Morrison warned that war between the US and China is possible as tensions grow.
Mr Morrison was responding to an article by former leader Kevin Rudd who wrote that a ‘hot war’ between the superpowers could break out for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
In an interview with US think tank the Aspen Institute, the prime minister said he would not use the phrase ‘hot war’ but admitted that armed conflict is possible.
Chinese soldiers march with the national flag at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1, 2019
‘Our defence update expresses it differently and certainly not as dramatically, as Kevin has,’ he said.
‘But we have acknowledged that what was previously inconceivable and not considered even possible or likely in terms of those types of outcomes, is not considered in those contexts anymore.
‘So there has been a change, there has obviously been a change and I don’t think that’s terribly remarkable.’
Mr Rudd warned that ‘a dangerous political and strategic cocktail’ threatened peace as Donald Trump and Joe Biden criticise China to win votes and Beijing asserts itself in the Indo-Pacific.
How China’s feud with Australia has escalated
2019: Australian intelligence services conclude that China was responsible for a cyber-attack on Australia’s parliament and three largest political parties in the run-up to a May election.
April 2020: Australian PM Scott Morrison begins canvassing his fellow world leaders for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain and France are initially reluctant but more than 100 countries eventually back an investigation.
April 15: Morrison is one of the few leaders to voice sympathy with Donald Trump’s criticisms of the World Health Organization, which the US president accuses of bias towards China.
April 21: China’s embassy accuses Australian foreign minister Peter Dutton of ‘ignorance and bigotry’ and ‘parroting what those Americans have asserted’ after he called for China to be more transparent about the outbreak.
April 23: Australia’s agriculture minister David Littleproud calls for G20 nations to campaign against the ‘wet markets’ which are common in China and linked to the earliest coronavirus cases.
April 26: Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye hints at a boycott of Australian wine and beef and says tourists and students might avoid Australia ‘while it’s not so friendly to China’. Canberra dismisses the threat and warns Beijing against ‘economic coercion’.
May 11: China suspends beef imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors. These account for more than a third of Australia’s $1.1billion beef exports to China.
May 18: The World Health Organization backs a partial investigation into the pandemic, but China says it is a ‘joke’ for Australia to claim credit. The same day, China imposes an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley. Australia says it may challenge this at the WTO.
May 21: China announces new rules for iron ore imports which could allow Australian imports – usually worth $41billion per year – to be singled out for extra bureaucratic checks.
June 5: Beijing warns tourists against travelling to Australia, alleging racism and violence against the Chinese in connection with Covid-19.
June 9: China’s Ministry of Education warns students to think carefully about studying in Australia, similarly citing alleged racist incidents.
June 19: Australia says it is under cyber-attack from a foreign state which government sources say is believed to be China. The attack has been targeting industry, schools, hospitals and government officials, Morrison says.