Ongoing US leadership in the Indo-Pacific is required to counterbalance a resurgent and increasingly assertive China and its territorial claims - otherwise the region risks militarisation and war, warns a new report from The Centre for Independent Studies.
As it becomes the world's most powerful nation in the next 20 to 30 years, China will develop capabilities to expel US forces from its eastern seaboard and attack US military bases in the Pacific Ocean. Tensions too are rising between China and many Asian nations over disputed territories in the East and South China seas and on the Indian subcontinent.
'US leadership has secured relative peace in the Indo-Pacific since World War II, and is essential to avoiding runaway Chinese territorial demands,' says Dr Benjamin Herscovitch, author of Preserving Peace as China Rises I.
'In the South China Sea, China regularly bullies the Philippines and Vietnam over disputed territory, and resorts to provocative tactics in a bid to seize the Japanese-controlled Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, even establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone over the islands.'
'Australia should support the United States in preserving the territorial status quo in the Indo-Pacific to calm China's nervous neighbours and de-escalate the situation.'
'China's strategic ambitions should concern Australia and its neighbours despite Beijing's apparent support for the US-led liberal international order of free markets and free trade.'
'Although the Chinese Communist Party appears resigned to lasting US regional leadership, Beijing's genuine intentions remain worryingly opaque,' says Dr Herscovitch.
Dr Benjamin Herscovitch is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies.He is available for comment.