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Nearly half of Australians, Taiwanese fear a military attack from China: Report

Living under a shadow of fear (Photo: IANS)

Research by The Australia Institute (TAI) in two countries, Australia and Taiwan, shows that nearly half of the people in both countries fear a Chinese attack. Despite the fears of an attack, the Australian people remain opposed to a war.

The Canberra-based public policy think tank says, it found nearly 42 per cent Australians thinking that "China will attack Australia soon or sometime" while 51 per cent Taiwanese think that China will attack their country also. People in both nations also see China "as being a very aggressive country".

TAI says that such feelings among the people, "may have been stimulated by recent strong-arm tactics by the Government of China, and anti-China rhetoric in Australia".

Trade and diplomatic relations between Australia and China sunk in the last over one year after Australia asked for an independent inquiry into the genesis of coronavirus at Wuhan in China. A bitter China responded by slapping sanctions on farm and mine produce from Australia.

It is surprising that Australians feel their country is likely to come under attack, being geographically far from China as compared to Taiwan which faces intimidatory incursions from Chinese military jets and various types of ships. Regarding Taiwan, the threat of an attack from China is real as the large communist neighbour has vowed to "integrate Taiwan" as a national mission–recently proclaimed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Allan Behm, head of the TAI's International & Security Affairs programme, and report co-author, says: “Given Australia and Taiwan’s historical and geographical differences, it is astounding that Australians could be more fearful than Taiwan in anticipating an attack from China—there is no doubt that China’s recent actions and
anti-China rhetoric in Australia have generated fear and insecurity in the Australian community”.

He added: “For the Taiwanese, potential war and its consequences remain very real while Australians—and those “beating the drums of war”—may not fully comprehend what a war with China would entail. Luckily, this polling ultimately shows that most Australians agree setting Australia on a path to war is not in our best interests".

Another significant finding of the report is that Australians want Taiwan to be an independent country and a handful even support military intervention by Australia. The report says: "Australians are sympathetic to Taiwanese aspirations for independence. Two-thirds of Australians agree that Taiwan should still become a new country, even if China decides to attack".

The most surprising finding from the report still remains that Australians feel that China can launch a war on them.

Melissa Conley Tyler, the report co-author and Research Associate at the Asia Institute of The University of Melbourne, commented: "I was astonished that a similar number of Australians think China will launch an armed attack on Australia as in Taiwan. It is doubtful that any military planner in the world would agree with this assessment, which begs the question of what is stoking this fear".