Australia has recently decided to buy nuclear submarines from the US, as part of a trilateral pact with the US and the UK – called AUKUS. The trigger: growing military influence of China in Indo-Pacific.
How is China militarily growing in Indo-Pacific?
Beijing’s policies in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and to some extent throughout the Western Pacific, are exhibiting greater assertiveness – complemented by its rising military clout. In the East China Sea, the world’s second largest economy is contesting Japan’s control of the Senkaku islands and pressing its own sovereignty over that territory. China’s aggression is even more evident in the Taiwan Strait. In addition to accelerated military activities in the Taiwan Strait, China is showing more intense hostility towards the presence of naval vessels from any other country in those waters. Signs of a more assertive Chinese policy in South China Sea are also increasing with every passing day.
What does military might of China look like?
According to the PWRIndex – that utilises over 50 individual factors to determine a nation's score with categories ranging from military might and financials to logistical capability and geography – China comes at the third place when it comes to military strength, just behind the US and neighbouring Russia. With 2.19 million active personnel, China boasts of the highest number of in-service men on planet. It has 3,260 aircraft strength, of which 37% are fighter aircrafts. It has about 35,000 armoured vehicles and 3,205 tanks at its disposal. At sea, they have 777 assets to fight it out for them, in case a war breaks out with any country.
How does Australia fare in comparison to China?
In terms of absolute numbers, Australia is no match for China, and has to go a long way to build deterrence. Australia is ranked 19 of 140 countries when it comes to military strength. With total active military personnel of just 60,000, Australia’s active servicemen are just 2.75% of China. Australia has just 425 aircrafts, of which just 75 are with fighter capabilities. Australia’s air force assets are just 13% of China’s numbers. With 59 tanks and 3,050 armoured vehicles, Australia is heavily outnumbered on land also. At sea, Australia’s strength is just 6% of the Chinese might– with just 48 assets.
China-Australia: The present and future
How about quality?
The quality of the warfare has been subjective. While Chinese think-tanks claim publicly that their military assets are a complete match to that of the US and west, the western think-tanks completely write off the Chinese quality. But then, with both countries – the US and China –avoiding any sort of direct confrontation, it seems abundantly clear that deterrence is more or less equal from both the sides.
Will China ever invade Australia?
Australia, thanks to its remote nature, has been difficult to invade. In the World War II theatre, the Australian continent, separated by swathes of sea from other landmasses, saw far lesser fighting than its European peers or the US. To sum it up, Australia is gifted with natural deterrence. Also, China has been more into threats than going for an all-out attack – which is seen as an economically prudent way of dealing with things. This has been proven by Chinese shenanigans in South China Sea – where it could have, otherwise, easily attacked a hapless Vietnam – its main rival there. Also, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) hint at the same fact. So, in all probability, a Chinese invasion of Australia looks quite improbable.