There is a potential military crisis on the horizon that "Australia won't be able to escape," experts warn.
China has vowed to reclaim a defiant Taiwan with the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, previously declaring he will take the country by force if necessary.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute Executive Director Peter Jennings fears Australia will have nowhere to hide if that happens.
Speaking on Sky News, he said the US would be drawn into any military escalation "and you better believe the United States will be expecting the help of its two key allies in the region – Japan and Australia – to play a role in the defence of Taiwan".
"This is something we won't be able to escape it seems to me," he said.
"China has certainly been ramping up its military activities around Taiwan and it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow that down."
The issue of China's stated plans to reabsorb Taiwan and bring the democratic nation of 23 million under the control of Beijing has been labelled a potential flashpoint for global conflict but most observers expect China to use every tactic short of war to reclaim political control of the country.
Warning to Australia: 'Who will help defend us?'
With the political freedoms of Hong Kong prematurely crushed by Beijing, there is increased speculation about the potential of conflict erupting over Taiwan in the coming years.
“The prospect of conflict is alive and well over Taiwan,” Professor John Blaxland from the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific told Yahoo News Australia in August.
Mr Jennings said the Australian government needs to be thinking about the long-term ramifications for our own security in how that scenario might play out.
“I guess my last comment would be to say Taiwan, as a successful democracy of 23 million people, its future should matter to Australia as a successful democracy of 25 million people," he told Sky News.
“If no one can be bothered to defend Taiwan, who would be bothered to help defend us?”
Australia 'won't yield to China': Morrison
Australia's relations with China at an all-time low with Prime Minister Scott Morrison getting on the front foot on Wednesday ahead of a rare news conference from the Chinese ambassador in Canberra.
China has repeatedly criticised Australia for speaking out about human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and blames the Morrison government for the poor state of the relationship.
The prime minister said there was no doubt the Chinese relationship was heavily strained.
"We want a positive relationship, but we will have a positive relationship that is consistent with Australia acting in accordance with its values and its national character," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
"That would never be something that we would yield for the sake of a relationship."
A strong force 💪#HMASAnzac & #HMASSirius are participating in Exercise La Perouse, a French-led multilateral maritime exercise in the Bay of Bengal, demonstrating #YourADF's commitment to working with #RegionalPartners to address shared challenges. 👏 https://t.co/JBabzwUE3H pic.twitter.com/byYqiH4gFc
— Department of Defence (@DeptDefence) April 5, 2021
Mr Morrison said Australia's objectives were clear, stressing the need to work with international allies to ensure free and open trade across the Indo-Pacific.
"We would be keen to work with China to those ends as we have consistently said," he said.
The prime minister also wants to see a more positive relationship between China and the United States, given the tensions it is creating for the region.
"But those relationships can't be achieved at the product of a less free and a less open Indo-Pacific."
Earlier this week, Royal Australian Navy ships joined vessels from France, India, Japan and the US for military exercises in the Bay of Bengal.
Global Times, a publication owned by the Chinese government, had earlier called the joint maritime exercises a "PR stunt".
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