ASPI report warns about China’s maritime and port expansion

A leading national security think tank has urged the federal government to investigate China’s infiltration of Australia, including state-owned enterprises and its military might.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute report, released on Wednesday, raises several red flags about China’s maritime and port expansion.

In a series of key recommendations, the government has been told to assess the communist nation’s military capability and develop an international ports strategy between Australia, Japan and the United States of America.

“Beijing’s greater willingness to flex its muscles, both politically and militarily, is supported by its overseas investments in critical infrastructure,” the report states.

“The People’s Republic of China has become increasingly willing to project military power overseas while coercing and co-opting countries into accepting the objectives of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”

The warning follows fears about a Chinese company that approached the Papua New Guinea government with a proposal to build a $39bn city just kilometres from Australia’s sea border.

Report authors Charlie Lyons Jones and Raphael Veit said Beijing’s strategy of using commercial investments in critical infrastructure to support its military expansion was most evident in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Their report cautions that Chinese state-owned enterprises’ large-scale investment in critical infrastructure was often accompanied by “covert or deceptive operations” that seek to manipulate foreign governments to advance CCP interests.

However, this investment overseas posed a “significant challenge” because Australia doesn’t share China’s strategic interests.

“The Department of Defence will need to improve its knowledge of how those state-owned enterprises and militias operate, what missions they’re expected to perform and what their command structures are,” the report stated.

“Doing so will ensure that Defence is forewarned about how China might deploy its coercive power in the grey zone, as well as the full extent of the People’s Liberation Army’s combat power in wartime.”

The federal government has also been urged to bring state and territory governments up to speed on the risks posed by Beijing’s investments in critical infrastructure.

A review of the country’s high-level critical infrastructure governance to ensure they align at all levels of government was also recommended.

Victoria’s Belt and Road initiative has repeatedly come under criticism with the federal government last year introducing new laws that could see the deal ripped up to curb foreign influence.

Drawing a line in the sand, Mr Lyons Jones and Mr Veit said domestic disunity between the states and Commonwealth was “no longer tenable” and that they needed to ensure they were not “vulnerable to a divide-and-conquer approach”.

“The relative success of the national cabinet in suppressing COVID-19 shows that there can be considerable synergy between the federal and state governments,” the report read.

“China’s intelligence services and political warfare units have proven adept at exploiting division between the federal and state governments on infrastructure matters relating to the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Future port infrastructure needs, including new construction and access arrangements needed in existing ports, should also be identified by the government.

The report recommends diplomatic collaboration with the US and Japan should also be boosted with regular dialogue about critical infrastructure.

The three nations should also share their security expertise with other countries across the Indo-Pacific to boost their resilience and alert them to the risks posed by these investments.

“With sufficient buy-in from New Delhi, this critical infrastructure strategy could be elevated to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue,” the report states, referring to the strategic forum comprising Australia, the US, Japan and India.

A regional approach has been deemed the “most viable response to China’s maritime expansion and investment in overseas ports”.

Officials should also be deployed in strategic locations to advice foreign countries about best practice in international ports.

Source link

Leave A Reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here