A major new war is looming — and this one sits worryingly close to home


A “TICKING time bomb” on Australia’s doorstep is counting down to war — and an expert says the world is blind to it.

Is the Australian economy too reliant on China?

A MAJOR new war is looming — and this one sits worryingly close to home.

Asia is at risk of descending into a region-wide crisis with global implications, a leading expert in Asia-Pacific affairs has warned.

Dr Brendan Taylor, Associate Professor at ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, argues Asia is at a dangerous crossroads in his new book The Four Flashpoints: How Asia Goes to War.

A lot is happening in the northeast. China is set to overtake the United States as the world’s dominant power over the next decade. Questions remain over Kim Jong-un’s supposed dismantling of his nuclear arsenal. Japan is building up its military power again, and regional battles for ownership of lucrative oceans are intensifying.

At the same time, Asia is going through a series of individual crises that feed off and escalate one another — a similar pattern that occurred before the outbreak of World War I and II.

Dr Taylor argues there are four key “flashpoints” — politically unstable areas with the potential to erupt into sudden conflict — and all are situated within the continent.

“The risk of major war in Asia is much greater today than most individuals assume,” he warns. “All it would take is an accidental clash between the wrong two militarities, at the wrong place or the wrong time, and a highly dangerous escalation could occur. Asia has been lucky so far that it hasn’t.”

But what are the four “flashpoints” — and how bad is the situation?


A lot has been said about China’s rising superpower status.

According to the Lowy Institute’s latest Asia Power Index, China is set to surpass the United States as the most powerful country in the Asia-Pacific region by 2030.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the South China Sea, a marginal sea in the Pacific Ocean bordered by 10 competing countries. Over the past five years, the size and scale of China’s land-reclamation has intensified, with satellite evidence of military build-up and threats uttered to the rest of the world — including Australia.

The sea continues some of the world’s most important shipping lanes, and is believed to hold trillions of dollars in undiscovered oil and gas reserves.

The South China Sea has long been considered a potential outbreak spot for a global war.
The South China Sea has long been considered a potential outbreak spot for a global war.Source:Getty Images

The prospect of war breaking out over the South China Sea continues to be a major discussion point.

It’s perhaps surprising, then, that Dr Taylor says the South China Sea is the least likely of the four major flashpoints to erupt into war.

He notes that, while a lot of countries are involved in the ownership debacle, most of them aren’t interested enough to go to war over it.

But whether the West can keep the waters free in the face of an increasingly aggressive China is another thing. “Washington will find it increasingly harder to stare down Beijing in the South China Sea; ­geography favours China too strongly.”

Meanwhile, in the sea to China’s east, a similar — if not more worrying situation — is bubbling.