‘The new normal’: Defence expert’s China warning


A defence expert has issued a stark warning about the presence of Chinese ships in the Pacific region, suggesting more sightings could be “the new normal”.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Michael Shoebridge has warned the presence of Chinese naval vessels in the Pacific is “the new normal”.

His comments come after a Chinese spy ship was detected “hugging” the Western Australian coastline, which Defence Minister Peter Dutton labelled “an aggressive act” that is “without precedent”.

“It’s becoming less and less unusual,” Shoebridge told Sky News Australia host Chris Kenny.

“We used to expect this kind of Chinese intelligence gathering ship when there was a major U.S-Australian exercise underway.

“To have them turn up now almost as a matter of routine tells us our security environment in our near region has changed.

“This is a really out and proud Chinese military; they are willing to intimidate and coerce.”

Shoebridge said a heavier Chinese presence could be the “new normal” following the recent deal Beijing signed with the Solomon Islands.

Concerns had been raised that the pact could lead to China establishing a base on the Pacific nation less than 2,000 kilometres from Australian shores.

“And the other development we’ve got to join the dots to here is the Solomons security deal with Beijing which makes the PLA Navy operating closer to Australia more routinely, like this a part of the new normal,” he said.

This comes amid reports President Xi Jinping’s health is deteriorating, but Shoebridge suggested it’s just conjecture.

He said when focusing on foreign policy decisions, the age of leaders should be highlighted.

“We are hearing similar rumours about Putin,” he said.

“Human lifespans are really important, so Xi and Putin are both ageing leaders and there are things they want to do while they’re alive.

“I think that’s a bigger explanation for Putin starting his horrific war in Ukraine and I think for those of us worried about the security in our region, Xi’s age should factor more into our discussions than it does,” he said.