The editor of a Chinese newspaper considered to be a mouthpiece of the Communist dictatorship has said Beijing should consider “long range strikes” directed at Australia.
Editor-in-chief of the stridently pro-Communist Global Times newspaper, Hu Xijin, made the extraordinary comments in an editorial advising Beijing how it should react should Australia join the US in protecting democratic Taiwan from invasion.
“Australia must know what disasters it would cause to their country,” he said in the tub-thumping piece published late on Friday.
Beijing has long insisted Taiwan must unite with the People’s Republic, either by choice or force. It has become a rallying cry for Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
That’s despite Taiwan never having been under communist rule. The island was where the then-Chinese government fled to in 1949 when the Communists took control on the mainland.
It is now a democratic nation with many inhabitants seeing themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese.
The US is not obligated to defend Taiwan, although its policy of “strategic ambiguity” over Taiwan means it reserves the right to do so. If the US did intervene, it’s highly likely Australia would be called on to help in some way.
In recent months, China has ratcheted up the tension and its air force has made repeated forays into Taiwan’s air defence zone.
On Anzac Day Canberra’s chief national security adviser Mike Pezzullo told staff that the “drums of war” were getting louder. That was widely interpreted as referring to China.
‘Long range strikes’ on Australia
Writing in the Global Times, Mr Hu said that Australian “hawks” were “hyping or hinting” that Australia would help the US should a military conflict occur in the Taiwan Straits.
“I suggest China make a plan to impose retaliatory punishment against Australia once it militarily interferes in the cross-Straits situation,” he said.
“The plan should include long-range strikes on the military facilities and relevant key facilities on Australian soil if it really sends its troops to China’s offshore areas and combats against the People’s Liberation Army.”
Any assistance to the US in Taiwan would be “irresponsible,” he added.
“China loves peace and will not take the initiative to pick a fight with faraway Australia, but Australian hawks must be clear-minded.
“If they are bold enough to co-ordinate with the US to militarily interfere in the Taiwan question and send troops to the Taiwan Straits to wage war with the PLA, they must know what disasters they would cause to their country.”
The Global Times’ editorials are not necessarily echoed by the Communist leadership but they would be unlikely to be published without Beijing’s blessing.
RELATED: War over Taiwan a ‘gamble’ for China – this is what it really wants
Where would Beijing target in Australia?
Writing in The Australian on Saturday, the paper’s foreign affairs editor Greg Sheridan nominated a few locations China might want to target on Australian soil.
These included the listening station run with the US at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs, which would be key in communicating during any Taiwan skirmish.
He also nominated Jindalee Operational Radar Network south of Longreach in Queensland, a signals facility in Geraldton, Western Australia, and Stirling naval base south of Perth where Australia’s submarines are based.
Most of China’s missiles are only capable of reaching parts of East Asia. But a number of its Dongfeng range of rockets are thought to have a far longer range and theoretically could reach much of Australia.
Late last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced $747 million would be spent on upgrading four key training bases in the Northern Territory which will be used by both Australian and US forces.
That follows $1.1bn being committed to RAAF Tindal, near Katherine, Australia’s most important air base in the country’s north.
The military boost is seen as a reaction to China’s moves not only on Taiwan but also its colonising of several island and atolls in the South China Sea much to the chagrin of neighbouring nations.
Last week, the deep freeze in China-Australia relations sunk further with Beijing announcing it was “indefinitely suspending ” all activities under the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue.
The strategic economic dialogue (SED), formed in 2014, is the main bilateral economic forum between China and Australia. It has been used to encourage investment between the two nations and smooth trade and finance talks.
The withdrawal is being interpreted as a reaction to the Federal Government ripping up a deal Victoria inked with Beijing to play a role in China’s flagship Belt and Road initiative.
“Recently, some Australian Commonwealth Government officials launched a series of measures to disrupt the normal exchanges and co-operation between China and Australia out of Cold War mindset and ideological discrimination,” the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement explaining the decision.
However, the suspension of the dialogue does not have any effect on current trade between China and Australia. The announcement saw no new tariffs levied on Australian imports. Additionally, the dialogue hasn’t met since September 2017.