For years, Australian policymakers have balanced China’s desire for an enhanced regional role with our desire for U.S. protection. However, contrary to the Canberra consensus, there is going to be an intense strategic rivalry between our major trading partner and our major strategic ally.
According to John Mearsheimer, one of America’s leading foreign-policy thinkers, Washington will not let China become the dominant military power in the region without putting up a serious fight. In these circumstances, it’s naïve to think that Australia can sit on the sidelines and get the best of both worlds: unconstrained trade with China while keeping the U.S. security umbrella over its head. Canberra must support Uncle Sam.
However, Australia’s future will be dominated by China, says one of Australia’s leading strategic thinkers Hugh White. Treasury forecasts show that the Chinese economy will be about 80 percent bigger than America’s within a dozen years. In this environment, Canberra must prepare for the new strategic terrain in the wake of America’s declining leadership, and it would be unwise to support Washington in a confrontation with China that America probably cannot win.
John Mearsheimer is a professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and author of The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities (Yale University Press).
Hugh White is a professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra and author of Quarterly Essay “Without America: Australia in the new Asia” (November 2017).