The idea in a nutshell

  • Australia is not firing any guns at China.
  • However, Chin’s behaviour at the moment seems to meet the definition of war.
  • The country is attacking us on multiple fronts.

What is a war?

This is from Wikipedia :

  • War is a situation or a period of fighting between countries or groups of people.

war generally involves :

  • The use of weapons,
  • A military organization, and
  • Soldiers

Also, war is a situation in whereby a nation enforces its rights by using force. Not every armed conflict is a war.

We are at war with China

China is on the news most days, which isn’t that strange. I live in Australia and, economically, we’re a gnat on China’s back. We’re probably too reliant on our iron ore exports which bring in around $80 billion, or 8% of the entire Australian economy. China alone takes 30% of Australia’s Iron Ore exports.

Escalation of the situation

Quite regularly, among these news reports, there is talk of an ‘escalation’ to war with China. One point of view is that we are already at war, but we’re not fighting in the same ways we used to. No one is discharging kinetic and / or nuclear weapons.

In many ways, the point of technology is to achieve a better (often bigger) result using a minimum of resources. As a result, one of the effects of the accelerated technological progress we’ve seen since WWII is that even small countries can develop extremely powerful tools that are a serious threat to Western countries. North Korea is a good example.

So how are we fighting with China?

On the other hand, there is a lot of friction with China on a number of fronts:

  • Trade War:
    The USA has taken the lead on a running trade war with China. I’ve written elsewhere before about how China seems to be outdoing us structurally in terms of economics.

It’s hard not to rely on China as part of the world economy when they’re growing so fast. The trade war the USA is undertaking is, at least in part, a punishment for some of China’s behaviour.

  • Hacking War:
    Just a couple of weeks ago, the Australian government announced that Australia had been subject to “state based actors”, by which it meant China, attempting to hack private companies and government bodies.
  • Politics/PR:
    Just this week, China made some announcements that mirrored Australia’s own, suggesting to its citizens that, should they travel to Australia, they might be exposing themselves to unfair search and siesure. These tit for tat announcements are now commonplace.
  • Technology War:
    This week, both TikTok – the Chinese social media app – and Huawei have been in the news. Both are banned because they apparently pose security threats to Western countries.
  • The South China Sea:
    China occupies the South China Sea much like the smelly old man down at the pub takes your chair when you go to the toilet. It’s clearly unreasonable, they’re doing it anyway, and they have correctly bet that the risk of escalation to something physical means the ‘victim’ will walk away muttering before they launch an all-out offensive.
  • Resource War:
    Artificial Intelligence is one of the best examples of this. China is fighting with the USA more than Australia, solely because Australia’s AI investments are so trivial. But China is competing and winning on strategic bets in AI – winning, for example, when it comes to the number of researchers working on AI projects.
  • Chemical War:
    Some would also have you believe the coronavirus was / is a plot by China to leapfrog the west economically with COVID 19. I do not believe that myself.
  • Against citizens:
    About 5% of Hong Kong people have UK citizenship at the moment, although China doesn’t recognise it. China is openly disrupting global international law norms and their promises to their citizens.

In conclusion

It seems strange to suggest that we’re not at war with China. Hacking is a weapon being used by the Chinese military to cause harm. China’s behaviour meets every aspect of the definition of war. The key thing they’re not doing is firing bullets. And why would they, when we’ve all agreed that sort of thing could lead to Mutually Assured Destruction?

It seems to me that the 5 Eyes Alliance, of which Australia is a part, is splitting the work of drawing under scrutiny the behaviour of China.

This week, the UK ‘did’ Huawei (took China on about it), and last week Australia hinted at China’s hacking (see above). The UK has offered to accept 3 million Hong Kong citizens, and the USA is negotiating a new ‘fairer’ Trade Deal.

They (China) clearly have an appetite for discord to have so many parallel arguments with Western forces.