China wants Australia to be its vassal state, Intelligence Committee chair warns

He said it put a lie to the claim that China was not seeking to export its ideology, something of which he said that Uighurs, Taiwanese and Hongkongers were already keenly aware.

“It also exposes the intellectual weakness of those who argued that economic engagement with China was the best protection we had against finding ourselves on the wrong side of their rise,” he said.

“For China, their economic power is just another tool of statecraft to be deployed against anyone they have leverage over, just like Russia uses energy dependence to weaken Europe’s resolve in confronting its malign activities.”

Paterson said that the way to confront this was not “endlessly more engagement” but by diversifying Australia’s international trade and supply chains away from authoritarian states.

Ukraine has spent eight years preparing its military for a Russian invasion following Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.Credit:Vadim Ghirda/AP

Paterson said Taiwan needed to learn the lessons that the Ukrainians had in 2014 after Putin’s swift and relatively unpunished illegal annexation of Crimea.

The Ukrainians modernised and equipped their military, enabling their current resistance which has frustrated Putin’s attempts so far to take back the former Soviet territory.

“The fear I have for all of us is that we will not have a warning as stark as 2014 and we certainly do not have eight years to get ready,” he said. “None of us have a moment to waste.”

Paterson’s warnings follow the alarm sounded by Taiwanese politician Wang Ting-Yu, who leads the committee responsible for assessing the island’s defence policies and declarations of war, who told this masthead that the bombing of Ukraine “may cause a chain reaction” and that it was time to let “Beijing know there is a red line”.

Wang, the first senior Taiwanese official to call for the end of “strategic ambiguity”, said the tactic of working with but not officially recognising Taiwan as a separate nation, was now outdated following Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine.

“The most dangerous thing today is a misjudgement,” he said in an interview from Taipei. “Ambiguity may cause misjudgments, ambiguity can lead to catastrophe. Strategic ambiguity was useful once, but it is dangerous now.”

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But in his speech, Paterson argued that strategic ambiguity did not rule out the possibility of a military response and could serve as a deterrent to China.

“My hope is that China will learn the right lessons from Ukraine in relation to its ambitions in the Indo-Pacific [and] that China has noticed the world’s incredible resolve and its extraordinary determination to enact a very high cost against Russia for what it has done,” he said.

This week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a $38 billion boost to Australia’s defence capability, including a promise to increase the number of military personnel to 80,000.

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