Australians are sharply divided over whether to join any military action to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion, despite record-high levels of support for the US alliance and growing unease toward Beijing’s intentions on the world stage.
A new survey released on Tuesday by the Lowy Institute, a foreign policy research group, found that only a slim majority of Australians supported military action in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
Out of those surveyed, 51 percent said they were in favor of Australia using its military forces to defend Taiwan, while 47 percent said they were against.
The unease over getting involved in a conflict comes despite record-low levels of confidence in the Chinese government in the latest Lowy Institute Poll, a survey examining Australian attitudes toward major foreign policy issues and challenges.
Australians’ opinions of China have soured dramatically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with just 12 percent of those surveyed saying they trust Beijing to act responsibly in global affairs.
In 2018, 52 percent of Australians said they had faith in China.
Attitudes toward international conflicts and the potential for one in the region have changed dramatically as well in the past few years.
According to the Lowy Institute, only 53 percent of Australians said they felt safe in the face of world events, down from 92 percent in 2010.
Overall, 75 percent of Australians said they thought it was likely China would become a military threat to their country in the next 20 years, the highest number on record and up from 46 percent in 2018.
Natasha Kassam, director of the Lowy Institute’s Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Program, said the survey showed Australians were “feeling very scared and very worried about what’s happening in the region.”
“You can see that Australians are trying to navigate this fear of China and this fear of Russia, but at the same time wanting to preserve the peace and security we have and don’t want to be dragged into another forever war,” she told Bloomberg TV.
Support for the US alliance is at an all-time high, Lowy said, with 87 percent saying the US military was important for Australia’s security.
However, Australians’ trust in the US has yet to recover from drops in support during the administration of former US president Donald Trump. Out of those surveyed, 65 percent said they trusted the US to do the right thing in international affairs, behind the UK, Japan and France, and down from 83 percent in 2011.
A majority of respondents said they were also concerned about US interference in Australia’s political processes and 90 percent said the political instability in the US was a critical or important threat to Australia’s future.
If the US decided to enter into a war with China independent of the questions over Taiwan, a majority of Australians said they would choose to remain neutral, the poll showed.
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