Will Australia and China go to War

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2019 was a busy year for the Asia-Pacific due to a number of events. In addition to the Covid-19 pandemic, which had a global impact and disrupted supply chains, the effects of the United States (US)-China trade war, which officially started in 2018, were also clearly evident. For example, in 2019, Australia-China defense talks were suspended by China after information emerged that the Canberra government would purchase nuclear submarines.  In 2020, China announced a series of sanctions against Australia, including barley, wine and beef.

After these events, the Washington administration sought to reassert its influence in the region, and as a result, on September 15, 2021, the AUKUS was established between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to provide nuclear submarines to the Canberra administration. As can be expected, the AUKUS has caused widespread repercussions and sparked various debates. Predictably, the strongest reaction to this development came from Beijing.

In March 2023, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age published articles in the “Red Alert” category, warning that China and Australia could go to war within three years.  In addition, these articles also pointed out that Taiwan could be seized by China in a possible war.

Following these allegations, on March 23, 2023, Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian, in his article titled “Taiwan is always part of China, but war with Australia is a fallacy” published in The Sydney Morning Herald, underlined that China has been exercising state power over Taiwan since the Song and Yuan dynasties and pointed out that Taiwan has been a part of China since ancient times.[1]

Xiao also responded to the war allegations, comparing the experts who made statements about the possibility of war between Australia and China to Don Quixote and arguing that fighting against a non-existent enemy would have corrosive effects on regional stability and Australia’s national interests. He also emphasized that the claims that Beijing and Canberra would go to war are not consistent and that this scenario is not in the national interests of the two states.[2]

Since the allegations are that the two countries will go to war, various factors need to be taken into account. For example, if the economy is analyzed, the importance of trade data increases significantly. In this context, Australia’s exports to China and imports from China stand out as important factors.

In January 2023, Australia’s exports to China totaled 11.5 billion dollars, while Australia’s imports from China amounted to 6.2 billion dollars in the same period.  Given that China’s sanctions are still in force, the size of the trade volume in China-Australia relations can be understood much better.

Considering that China is Australia’s largest trading partner and 25.9% of Australia’s exports go to China,[3] it can be argued that a war-like confrontation between Beijing and Canberra would cause major damage to the Australian economy. In addition, considering that countries have to spend on ammunition and military equipment during the war  it can be stated that both the loss of the largest trading partner and additional military expenditures will cause high costs for Australia.

Politically, the resumption of defense talks between China and Australia, which had been suspended since 2019, indicates that relations between the parties are gaining positive momentum. This positive momentum is in line with Australia’s goal of having a more free foreign policy space as the great power competition continues. In addition, China’s close ties with both Russia and North Korea make it an important state for both peace in the Russian-Ukrainian War and a settlement on the Korean Peninsula.

Indeed, briefing notes of Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s first visit to China in three years in December 2022 were obtained.  The notes, published by The Guardian Australia, show that Wong called on her Chinese counterpart to warn Russia that it was responsible for its own nuclear narrative and to end the war with Ukraine.[4]

As a result, Australia-China relations, which were damaged in 2019, have shown signs of improvement after three years. As these signs of improvement emerged, talk of the possibility of a war between Australia and China began and Australian media outlets published articles that resonated in China. In this context, it does not seem rational for China and Australia to go to war.

[1] Xiao Qian, “Taiwan is Always Part of China, but War with Australia is a Fallacy”, The Sydney Morning Herald,, (Date of Accession: 23.03.2023).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Daniel Workman, “Australia’s Top Trading Partners”, World’s Top Exports,, (Date of Accession: 27.03.2023).

[4] Daniel Hurst, “Penny Wong Advised to Pressure China over Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Documents Reveal”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 27.03.2023).

Elcan TOKMAK, 2022 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü'nden mezun olmuştur. Eylül-Aralık 2022 tarihleri arasında ANKASAM bünyesinde Kariyer Staj Programı'nı tamamlayan Tokmak, Temmuz 2023 tarihinden itibaren ANKASAM Asya-Pasifik Araştırma Asistanı olarak çalışmalarını sürdürmektedir. Şu anda Hacettepe Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü'nde Yüksek Lisans eğitimine devam eden Tokmak'ın ilgi alanları Çin-Japonya-Kore ilişkileri ve Çin Dış Politikası'dır. Tokmak; profesyonel düzeyde İngilizce, orta derecede Çince ve başlangıç düzeyinde Korece bilmektedir.