Australia plans new defence 'shield' against China. Big questions remain

Canberra looks to long-range deterrent strikes and building a regional coalition in major shift in its defence strategy

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Australia is seriously worried about its defence. This is clear from Canberra's new defence policy review, released earlier this month. But it is not clear what it plans to do about it. The Defence Strategic Update 2020 carries a lot of messages, not all of them credible or mutually consistent. However, the implications for Australia's neighbours in Asia are plain.

Canberra wants to expand defence relations with other regional countries, with the aim of creating a regional coalition directed against China. It wants to rely on this coalition to shield Australia from Beijing's growing military power. But it has no concrete diplomatic ideas about how to build such a coalition, and is doing little to expand its own military capacity to contribute to regional security. This does not bode well for Australia's future strategic role in Asia.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2020, with the headline Australia plans new defence 'shield' against China. Big questions remain. Subscribe