Australia should be "very concerned" about China's ambition to woo Pacific island nations and its intention to expand foreign military operations, according to one defence analyst.
China's state media reported this week President Xi Jinping had signed an order expanding the legal basis for the country's military to conduct "armed forces operations" other than war in other territories.
Kori Schake, director of foreign and defence policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute based in Washington DC is the latest to warn about China's motives.
She described what effectively amounts to a new military doctrine for the Chinese People's Liberation Army as "potentially very serious".
"The Chinese are trying to push out their basing and their stationing agreements further and further to complicate a potential defence of Taiwan by the US and other countries," she told ABC Radio on Friday morning.
"We need to ensure we sustain the ability to provide Taiwan the kind of assistance that will allow it to protect itself against potential Chinese invasion, blockade, or attack."
When asked about China's charm offensive in Australia's region, Ms Schake didn't mince her words.
"I think Australia should be very concerned," she said.
Ms Schake is steeped in defence history and has formerly worked for US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Senator John McCain, who lost the presidential election to Barack Obama in 2008.
She believes Australia is a "front line state" in countering China's outward aggression.
Since coming to power, Australia's new foreign minister Penny Wong has been on a whirlwind trip visiting Pacific island nations in an effort to improve bilateral ties – something which US observers belief is critical to curbing China's "malevolent" expansion.
"Australia moving so assertively, engagingly and wanting to help countries in the Pacific to sustain their sovereignty against Chinese pressure is really valuable," Ms Schake said.
"Your country and mine have left the Chinese too much uncontested space to provide investment, to provide security [in the Pacific]".
The official move by China's leader this week to expand the military remit of his country has raised eyebrows, with some observers likening it to the language used by Vladimir Putin to justify his invasion of Ukraine.
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