In April this year, Australians were warned by no less an expert than the former Minister for Defence, Christopher Pyne, that they may need to engage in a ‘kinetic’ war with China in the next five to ten years. This warning was followed up by a senior member of the national security bureaucracy advising Australians, in terms more ominous than bureaucrats normally use, that “the drums of war beat”.
To illuminate these issues, The Australia Institute surveyed nationally representative samples of both Australians and Taiwanese about their views on a series of questions regarding each nation’s security and relationship with China.
The results suggest that Australians are very fearful of China but that only around one in five Australians is prepared to commit to war in support of the people of Taiwan.
Several key themes emerged from the results:
- Australia’s geographical distance from China notwithstanding, Australians and Taiwanese are equally fearful of China.
- A similar number of Australians think China will launch an armed attack on Australia (42%) as on Taiwan (49%)
- Taiwanese people do not want to be governed by China or to be a part of China.
- Around half (49%) of Taiwanese people are in favour of independence, regardless of the consequences.
- Taiwanese do not expect an imminent attack, but expect one at some point in the future.
- Australians expect China to launch an armed attack on Taiwan sooner than Taiwanese do.
- Taiwanese people are clear-eyed that war with China would be unwinnable without international assistance, and would likely only be a draw even with US help.
- Australians are sympathetic to Taiwanese aspirations for independence with two-thirds agreeing that Taiwan should still become a new country, even if China decides to attack after Taiwan declares independence.
- There is a strong age correlation in Taiwan, with young people supporting independence and measures to achieve it, and fearing China, to a greater extent than older people.