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In one of the more eventful weeks in Australian defence and foreign policy, the Morrison government terminated Victoria’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative deal with China; Defence Minister Peter Dutton declared that a war with China over Taiwan “should not be discounted”; Homeland Security Secretary Mike Pezzullo delivered a resonating speech about the “beating drums” of war; and Scott Morrison announced an upgrade of the Northern Territory’s training ranges in a move widely viewed as a response to China’s military build-up.

Feigned indignation, authoritarian self-righteousness and threatened retribution were China’s all-too-familiar res­ponses, underlining the depths to which the relationship has sunk and the difficulty of engaging a regime that relentlessly asserts its secular infallibility. From China’s perspective, our defence contingency planning is motivated by “white supremacy” rather than prudent risk management. And the decision to terminate Victoria’s BRI agreement is apparently “political manipulation and bullying” rather than being a long-overdue correction to a premier’s hubris and overreach.

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