China’s state-run Global Times published an op-ed by its editor-in-chief, Hu Xijin, on Thursday in which Hu argues that China “should be prepared with an iron fist” to use against Australia if the nation follows through with a recent promise to support the U.S. in a theoretical war with China over Taiwan.
“Over the past two years, Australian officials constantly made public statements or hinted they will send troops to join the fight once a war breaks out in the Taiwan Straits,” Hu recalled on November 18.
“Some of them clamor that Australian soldiers should be prepared to fight,” he added.
“In the face of such an irrational Australia, shouldn’t China be prepared with an iron fist and to punch it hard when needed, teaching it a thorough lesson?” Hu asked.
The Global Times editor-in-chief referred to previous exchanges between himself and Peter Dutton, Australia’s Minister of Defense. Dutton told the Australian newspaper on November 12 “it would be inconceivable” that Canberra would not support Washington “if the U.S. chose to take that action,” referring to military action in defense of Taiwan in the event of a possible invasion of the island by China.
“(China’s) been very clear about their intent to go into Taiwan and we need to make sure that there is a high level of preparedness, a greater sense of deterrence by our capability, and that is how I think we put our country in a position of strength,” the Australian defense minister said.
Hu responded to Dutton’s remarks on November 13 by retweeting a Financial Times article quoting his November 12 Australian interview. In an accompanying statement, the Global Times editor-in-chief wrote:
If Australian troops come to fight in the Taiwan Straits, it is unimaginable that China won’t carry out a heavy attack on them and the Australian military facilities that support them. So Australia better be prepared to sacrifice for Taiwan island and the US.
Hu’s reaction inspired the U.K.’s Daily Mail to publish an article about the editor’s strongly worded comment on November 13 titled “China THREATENS Australia with ‘heavy attack’ if forces defend Taiwan.”
Hu then retweeted this Daily Mail article, along with another accompanying text statement that read, “Australia threatened China first, shouldn’t it face the threats in return? If Australian troops come to the Taiwan Straits to fight the PLA, that will definitely be a nightmare for them.”
Dutton responded to Hu’s string of Twitter posts on November 18 by reaffirming Australia’s commitment to supporting the U.S. militarily in the event of a future conflict with China.
“We are going to … stand with our partners including the United States to make sure there is prevailing peace in our region,” the defense minister assured the Australian public in a radio interview.
The Chinese Communist Party in October reiterated its historic threat to “reunify” Taiwan with China by force, if necessary. Beijing considers Taiwan, a sovereign island nation located off China’s southeast coast, to be a renegade province of China. The stance has led China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to stage intimidating drills in and around the Taiwan Straits, which separate Taiwan from China, in recent months. The exercises, which include incessant flyover drills penetrating Taiwanese airspace, have ramped up in recent weeks prompting international concern over the threat of a possible military conflict between China and Taiwan.
Australia, which is America’s largest ally in the Indo-Pacific region, joined a new security pact with the U.S. and the U.K. — known as AUKUS — in September which observers consider an effort to counter China’s rising influence and belligerence in the strategically significant region.