A Chinese military officer has warned Australia not to side with the United States and Japan if war breaks out in the East China Sea.
Senior Colonel Liu Mingfu said the US and Japan had provoked the ire of the Chinese people for “violating the security, peace and stability of the Asia Pacific.” China was a peace-abiding nation but would fight “to the death” if sufficiently provoked, he said.
Colonel Liu’s warning raises the nightmare possibility of Australia having to choose between its dominant economic and security partners as a territorial contest between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, also known as the Diaoyu Islands, continues to escalate.
China, Japan and Japan’s defense ally, the United States, have been trading military and diplomatic warnings over the disputed islands, while China has placed the People’s Liberation Army on combat alert.
“America is the global tiger and Japan is Asia’s wolf, and both are now madly biting China,” Colonel Liu said.
“Of all the animals, Chinese people hate the wolf the most. Australia should never play the jackal for the tiger or dance with the wolf.”
China and Japan are Australia’s dominant export markets and the US is Australia’s defense treaty partner. Colonel Liu asked that his message be conveyed directly to the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Like previous prime ministers, she has consistently maintained that Australia will not have to choose between its economic and security interests.
Colonel Liu likened Australia to a “kind-hearted lamb” that China would discourage from being led astray.
He has taught at the PLA’s National Defense University but said he was speaking in his personal capacity. His views do not represent Chinese government policy, but he said they were consistent with what mainstream Chinese political and military leaders think, if not what they say.
Colonel Liu is one in a group of outspoken hawkish PLA officers, who do not claim to speak on behalf of the leadership, but are given a conditional license to speak stridently on some issues at some times.
Foreign diplomats say the ambiguity of their status can serve a useful purpose by conveying unofficial warnings and testing foreign and domestic reactions, but they say hawkish commentators can potentially influence China’s internal political contests and place pressure on leaders to demonstrate their nationalistic credentials.
Colonel Liu, with other military figures, has been buoyed by the arrival of the Communist Party and PLA boss, Xi Jinping.
Colonel Liu said Australia needed to recognize that the US was reaching the dying days of its global dominance. “American hegemony is not at its dawn and not at its zenith,” he said. It is at its sunset and night is coming.”