Australia is making big investments in defense

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  • By Ray
    Song 宋磊

Following China’s rapid rise in the past few years, its People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has already changed the face of the first island chain.

On April 17, the Australian Department of Defence published two key documents: the 2024 National Defence Strategy and the 2024 Integrated Investment Program.

In addition to delineating a new “deterrence strategy” to bolster efforts against China’s expansion, it specifically states that the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) must carry out its AUKUS submarine plans and build up the Royal Australian Air Force’s long-distance strike capabilities.

Why is the Australian military putting forward these defense strategies?

Strictly speaking, it has to do with the nation’s inability to shake off its strategic location along the periphery of the Pacific.

The RAN has, for a long time, used older, conventional vessels as the core of its submarine fleet, but although China is situated several thousands of kilometers away from Australia, PLAN’s underwater and surface fleet expansions necessitates an upgrade.

Due to Australia’s strategic position along the second island chain, it served as a critical ally of the US during World War II. Likewise, it plays a key role in the Western system of alliances led by the US against China, which is a revisionist power intent on breaking the regional order.

We can look at Australia’s basis for strengthening its own defenses through three categorizations.

First, Australia is a massive island. The PLA’s lack of power projection capabilities in the past century led to the relative stability of Australia’s defense and security. However, after Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) rose to power in 2012, Beijing has continued to promote the “China Dream” while bolstering its own military ambitions.

These developments pose credible and realistic threats to countries strung along the first and second island chains. Enhancing national security and constructing a more secure maritime and aerial defensive parameter has become a shared goal for Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore and Australia.

Second, Australia has long had plans to grow its nuclear submarine fleet through the AUKUS alliance with the UK and the US, raising underwater deterrence through long-term underwater warfare capabilities. At the same time, because nuclear-powered submarines possess considerable capabilities, they could serve as Australia’s underwater deterrence force in times of peace and a powerful striking capability in wartime.

Additionally, plans to build nuclear submarines benefit Australia’s national defense industry development. Its membership in AUKUS could be called a great, long-term investment in the country’s national defense and security.

Third, the PLA has sharply increased its power and continues to appear in the waters and airspace in and around the first and second island chains. Since Australia is a small-to-medium-sized country in the region, its national security needs are shaped by threats beyond its immediate environment.

To improve national security, the Australian government and military are taking the initiative to invest heavily in their defense.

Not only do these policies aid its future security, they also highlight the nation’s responsibility in maintaining order in the second island chain.

Ray Song is a doctoral student at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies.

Translated by Tim Smith

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