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to Big ideas Extended Mix. Hello and welcome I'm Tony Jones. John Mearsheimer the University of Chicago's

and most controversial thinkers is billed as one of America's boldest on international relations.

In his first ever Australian lecture looks at China's rise in Asia Professor Mearsheimer and its implications for Australia. should be worried Mearsheimer believes Australia its military capabilities about China increasing over the next few decades competition with the US and the escalating strategic nasty miscalculations. could lead to potentially powerful state on the planet The United States has been the most

for many decades forces in the Asia Pacific region and has deployed robust military of World War II. since the early years in your neighbourhood America's presence for Australia has had significant consequences and for the wider region. government sees it, This is how the Australian

the 2009 Defence White Paper: at least according to country for many decades, "Australia has been a very secure because the wider Asia-Pacific region in large measure of peace and stability has enjoyed an unprecedented era primacy." underwritten by US strategic in other words, The United States,

in this part of the world. has acted as a pacifier However, in the White Paper, according to the very next sentence "That order is being transformed start to bring about changes as economic changes strategic power." in the distribution of The argument here, of course, is that the rise of China

on the global balance of power. is having a significant effect In particular, the power gap

is shrinking between China and the United States and in all likelihood in this region will be no more. "US strategic primacy" the United States will disappear; This is not to say that

is likely to grow in fact, its presence here in response to China's rise. will no longer be But the United States in your neighborhood, the preponderant power as it has been since 1945. that flows from this discussion The most important question is whether China can rise peacefully. the Defence White Paper It is clear from

Australia's strategic situation which is tasked with assessing out to the year 2030 - that policymakers here are worried

in the Asia-Pacific region. about the changing balance of power that document: Consider these comments from "As other powers rise, is increasingly tested, and the primacy of the United States

will inevitably change. power relations the possibility of miscalculation. When this happens there will be

but still concerning possibility There is a small between some of these powers." of growing confrontation we read that, At another point in the White Paper

strategic competition "Risks resulting from escalating could emerge quite unpredictably, in our defence planning." and is a factor to be considered seems to sense In short, the Australian government between China and the United States that the shifting balance of power

in the neighborhood. may not be good for peace I would like to argue tonight about China's rise, that Australians should be worried because it is likely to lead between China and the United States, to an intense security competition with considerable potential for war.

Moreover, most of China's neighbours,

South Korea, Russia, Vietnam, to include India, Japan, Singapore, and yes Australia, to contain China's power. will join with the United States China cannot rise peacefully. To put it bluntly: to contain China's power. will join with the United States

Chinese behavior alone that I am not arguing that that lies ahead. will drive the security competition to behave in aggressive ways, The United States is also likely the prospects for trouble thus further increasing here in the Asia-Pacific region.

with my assessment of the situation. Naturally, not everyone will agree can rise peacefully, Many believe that China with my assessment of the situation. Naturally, not everyone will agree have confrontational relations. and a powerful China will will have peaceful intentions Of course, they assume that China and that welcome fact of life in this region, can facilitate stability balance of power even though the underlying

is expected to change dramatically. three key arguments I would like to examine this optimistic prognosis. that are often employed to support can allay fears about its rise First, some claim that China

by making it clear to its neighbours and the United States that it has peaceful intentions, that it will not use force to change the balance of power. This perspective can be found in the Defence White Paper

which states, "The pace, scope and structure of China's military modernisation

have the potential to give its neighbours cause for concern if not carefully explained and if China does not reach out to others, to build confidence regarding its military plans." In essence, the belief here is that Beijing has the ability to signal its present and future intentions

to Australia and other countries in compelling ways. Unfortunately, states can never be certain about each other's intentions. They cannot know with a high degree of certainty or a status quo power.

For example, there is still no concensus among experts as to whether the Soviet Union was bent on dominating Eurasia during the Cold War. Nor is there a concensus on whether Imperial Germany was a highly aggressive state that was principally responsible

for causing World War I. The root of the problem is that unlike military capabilties on whether Imperial Germany intentions cannot be empirically verfied. Intentions are in the minds of decision makers intentions cannot be empirically verfied. You might say that Chinese leaders can use words to explain their intentions,

but talk is cheap and leaders have been known to lie to foreign audiences. Thus it is hard to know the intentions of China's present leaders, which is not to say they're necessarily revisionist.

But even if one could determine China's intentions today, there is no way to know what they will be in the future. After all, it's impossible to identify who will be running the foreign policy of any country five or ten years from now, much less whether they will have aggressive intentions. It cannot be emphasised enough that we face radical uncertainty

when it comes to determining the future intentions of any country, China included. A second line of argument is that a benign China can avoid confrontation by building defensive rather than offensive military forces. In other words, Beijing can signal that it is a status quo power by denying itself the capability

to use force to alter the balance of power. After all, a country that has hardly any offensive capability cannot be a revisionist state, because it does not have the means to act aggressively. Not surprisingly, Chinese leaders often claim

that their military is designed solely for defensive purposes. For example, the New York Times recently reported in an important article on the Chinese Navy that its leaders maintain, "that it is purely a self-defense force." One problem with this approach

is that it is difficult to distinguish between offensive and defensive military capabilties. Negotiators at the 1932 Disarmament Conference tried to make these distinctions and found themselves tied in knots trying to determine

whether particular weapons like tanks and aircraft carriers are offensive or defensive in nature.

The basic problem is that the capabilities that states develop to defend themselves often have significant offensive potential. Consider what China is doing today. It is building military forces that have significant power projection capability, and as the Defence White Paper tell us China's "miliary modernisation will be increasingly characterised

by the developement of power projection capabilities." For example, the Chinese are building naval forces that can project power out to the so-called "second island chain" in the Western Pacific, and they also say they're plannning to build the blue-water navy

that can operate in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. For understandable reasons they want to be able to protect their sea lanes and not have to depend on the American Navy to handle that mission. Although they do not have that capability yet - as Robert Kaplan points out in a recent article on foreign affairs - "China's naval leaders are displaying an aggressive philosophy

of the turn of the century US naval strategist, Alfred Thayer Mahan who argued for sea control and the decisive battle." Of course, most Chinese leaders think their navy is defensively oriented, even though it has considerable offensive capability

and will have much more in the future. Indeed, they refer to their naval strategy as "far sea defence". As Kaplan's comments indicate, it seems almost certain that as the Chinese Navy grows in size and capability, none of China's neighbours - including Australia - will consider it to be defensively orientated.

They will instead view it as a formidable offensive force. Thus anyone looking to determine China's future intentions by observing its military is likely to conclude that Beijing is bent on aggression. Finally, some maintain that China's recent behaviour

towards its neighbours - which has not been aggressive in any meaningful way - is a reliable indicator of how China will act in the decades ahead. The central problem with this argument is that past behaviour is usually not a reliable indicator of future behaviour because leaders come and go and some are more hawkish than others,

plus circumstances at home and abroad can change in ways that make the use of military force more or less attractive. The Chinese case is illustrative in this regard. Beijing does not possess a formidible military today

and it is certainly in no position to pick a fight with the United States. This is not to say that China is a paper tiger but it does not have the capability

to cause much trouble in the region. However, that situation is expected to change markedly over time. In which case, China will have significant offensive capability.

Then will we see how committed it is to the status quo but right now we cannot tell much about China's future behaviour because it has such limited capability to act aggressively. What all of this tell us is that there is no good way to divine what China's intentions will be down the road

or to predict its future behaviour based on its recent foreign policies. It does seem clear, however, that China will eventually have a military with significant offensive potential. Up to now I have been concerned with how an American or an Australian might assess China's future behaviour a military

in the Asia-Pacific region we must also consider what Chinese leaders can divine about future American behaviour by looking at its intentions, capabilities, and present behaviour.

There's obviously no way China's leaders can know

who will be in charge of American foreign policy in the years ahead, much less what intentions towards China will be. But they do know that all of America's post Cold War presidents - including Barack Obama - have stated that they are committed to mantaining American primacy. And that means Washington is likely to go to considerable lengths

to prevent China from becoming too powerful. Regarding capabilities - the United States spends more money on defence than any - than all the other countries in the world combined. Moreover, because the United States' military is designed to fight all around the globe,

it has abundant power projection assets.

Much of that capability is either located in the Asia-Pacific region or can be moved there quickly should the need arise. China cannot help but see that the United States has formidible military forces in its neighbourhood that are designed in good part for offensive purposes.

Surely when Washington moves aircraft carriers into the Taiwan Straits, as it did in...1996, when it deploys submarines to the western Pacific, China sees these naval assets as offensive not defensive in nature. This is not to deny that most Americans, like most Chinese,

think that their military is a defensive instrument but that's not the way it looks when you're at the other end of the rifle barrel. Thus, anyone in China seeking to gauge American intentions by assessing its military capabilities is likely to think it's a revisionist state

not a status quo power. Lastly, there's the matter of America's recent behaviour and what that might tell us about future US actions. As I said earlier, past actions are usually not a reliable indicator of future behavior because circumstances change

and new leaders sometimes think differently about foreign policy

than their predecessors. But if Chinese leaders try to gauge how the United States is likely to act down the road by looking at its recent foreign policy, they will almost certainly conclude that it is a war-like and dangerous country.

After all, America has been at war for 14 of the 21 years since the Cold War ended. That is two out of every three years. And remember that the Obama administration

is apparently contemplating a new war against Iran. One might argue that this is all true, but the United States has not threatened to attack China.

The problem with this argument is that American leaders from both the Democratic and Republican parties have made it clear that they believe the United States - to quote Madeleine Albright - is the "indispensable nation" and therefore it has both the right and the responsibility to police the entire globe.

Furthermore, most Chinese are well aware of how the United States took advantage of a weak China by pushing forward the infamous "Open Door" policy in the early 20th century. Chinese officials are also aware that the United States and China fought a bloody war in Korea between 1950 and 1953. It is not surprising

that The Economist magazine recently reported that,

"A retired Chinese admiral likened the American Navy to a man with a criminal record wandering just outside the gate of a family home." It seems that this is a case where we should be thankful

that countries usually don't pay much attention to a potential rival's past behavior when trying to determine its future intentions. What all of this tells us is that the future security environment in the Asia-Pacific region will revolve around China and the United States,

and each of those great powers will have a military with significant offensive capability and unknowable intentions.

There is one other factor that matters greatly for future Sino-American relations. There is no centralized authority that states can turn to for help if a dangerous aggressor threatens them. There is no night watchman in the international system,

which means that states have to rely mainly on themselves to ensure their survival. Thus, the core question that any leader has to ask him or herself is this - what is the best way to maximize my country's security

in a world where another state

might have significant offensive military capability as well as offensive intentions, and where there is no higher body I can turn to for help if that other state threatens my country. This question, more than any other, will motivate American as well as Chinese leaders in the future

as it has in the past.

to this question and that all great powers know it and act accordingly. The best way for any state to ensure its survival is to be much more powerful than all the other states

in the system because the weaker states are unlikely to attack it for fear that they will be soundly defeated.

No country in the Western hemisphere, for example, would dare strike the United States because it is so powerful relative to all its neighbours. To be more specific, the ideal situation for any great power is to be the hegemon in the system

because then its survial would be almost guaranteed. A hegemon is a country that is so powerful that it dominates all the other states. In other words, no other state has the military wherewithal to put up a serious fight against it. In essence, a hegemon is the only great power in the system.

When people talk about hegemony these days, they are usually referring to the United States, which they describe as a global hegemon. I do not like this terminology, however, because it is virtually impossible for any state including the United States to achieve global hegemony. The main obstacle to world domination

is the difficulty of projecting power over huge distances, especially across enormous bodies of water like the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The best outcome that a great power can hope for is to achieve regional hegemony, and possibly control another region that is close by

and easily accessible over land. The United States, which dominates the Western Hemisphere, is the only regional hegemon in modern history. Five other great powers have tried to dominate their region Napoleonic France, Imperial Germany, Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany

and the Soviet Union but none succeeded. The United States, it should be emphasised, did not become a hegemon in the Western Hemisphere by accident. When it gained its independence in 1783, it was a weak country comprised of 13 colonies running up and down the Atlantic seaboard.

it was a weak country comprised of 13 colonies American policymakers worked unrelentingly in pursuit of regional hegemony. They expanded America's boundaries from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans as part of a policy commonly referred to as Manifest Destiny.

Indeed, the United States was an expansionist power of the first order.

Henry Cabot Lodge put the point well when he noted that the United States had a "record of conquest, colonisation, and territorial expansion unequalled by any people in the 19th century." Or, I might add, the 20th century. But America's leaders in the 19th century were not just concerned with turning the United States

into a powerful territorial state. They were also determined to push the European great powers out of the Western Hemisphere, and make it clear to them that they were not welcome back. This policy, which is still in effect today, is known as the Monroe Doctrine.

By 1898, the last European empire in the Americas had collapsed and the United States had become a regional hegemon. States that achieve regional hegemony have a further aim - they seek to prevent great powers in other regions from duplicating their feat.

A regional hegemon, in other words,

does not want peer competitors. The United States, for example, played a key role in preventing Imperial Germany, Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union from gaining regional supremacy. Regional hegemons attempt to check aspiring hegemons in other regions,

because they fear that a rival great power that dominates its own region will be an especially powerful foe that is essentially free to roam around the globe and cause trouble in their backyard. Regional hegemons prefer that there be at least two great powers in other regions, Regional hegemons prefer that there be

to concentrate their attention on each other rather than the distant hegemon. The bottom line here is that for sound strategic reasons the United States laboured for more than a century to gain regional hegemony, and after achieving that goal, it has made sure that no other great power

dominated either Asia or Europe the way it dominates the Western Hemisphere. Now what does America's past behaviour In particular, how should we expect China to conduct itself as it grows more powerful? And how should we expect the United States and China's neighbours

to react to a strong China? I expect China to act the way the United States has acted

over its long history. Specifically, I believe that China will try to dominate the Asia-Pacific region much as the United States dominates the Western Hemisphere. For good strategic reasons,

China will seek to maximize the power gap between itself and potentially dangerous neighbours like India, Japan and Russia. China will want to make sure that it is so powerful

that no other state in Asia has the wherewithal to threaten it. It is unlikely that China will pursue military superiority

so that it can go on a warpath

and conquer other countries in the region, although that is always that possibility. Instead, it is more likely that Beijing will want to dictate the boundary of acceptable behavior to neighboring countries, much the way the United States makes it clear to other states in the Americas

that it is the boss. Gaining regional hegemony, I might add, is probably the only way China will get Taiwan back. A much more powerful China can also be expected to try to push the United States out of the Pacific-Asia region,

much the way the United States pushed the European great powers out of the Western Hemisphere in the 19th century. We should expect China to come up with its own version

of the Monroe Doctrine, as Imperial Japan did in the 1930s. In fact, we are already seeing inklings of that policy. Consider that in March, Chinese officials told two high-ranking American policymakers that the United States was no longer allowed to interfere

in the South China Sea, which China views as a "core interest" like Taiwan and Tibet. And it seems that China feels the same way about the Yellow Sea.

Last week the US and South Korean navies conducted joint naval exercises in response to North Korea's alleged sinking

of a South Korean naval vessel. Those naval manoeuvres were originally scheduled for the Yellow Sea,

which is adjacent to the Chinese coastline, but vigorous protests from China forced the Obama Administration to move them further east into the Sea of Japan. These ambitious goals make good strategic sense for China.

Beijing should want a militarily weak Japan and Russia as neighbours, just as the United States prefers a militarily weak Canada and Mexico on its borders. No state in its right mind should want powerful states located in its region. All Chinese surely remember what happened in the last century

when Japan was powerful and China was weak. Furthermore, why would a powerful China accept US military forces operating in its backyard? American policymakers, after all, express outrage whenever distant great powers send military forces into the Western Hemisphere. Those foreign forces are invariably seen

as a potential threat to American security. The same logic should apply to China. Why would China feel safe with US forces deployed on its doorstep? are invariably seen would not China's security be better served by pushing the American military out of the Asia-Pacific region? would not China's security be better served

than the United States has over the course of its history? Are they more principled than Americans are? be better served Are they less nationalistic than Americans? Less concerned about their survival? They are none of these things, of course,

which is why China is likely to imitate the United States

and attempt to become a regional hegemon. And what is the likely American response

if China attempts to dominate Asia? It is crystal clear from the historical record that the United States does not tolerate peer competitors. As it demonstrated over the course of the 20th century,

it is determined to remain the world's only regional hegemon.

Therefore, the United States can be expected to go to great lengths to contain China and ultimately weaken it to the point where it is no longer a threat to rule the roost in Asia. In essence, the United States is likely to act toward China similar to the way it behaved toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

China's neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region are certain to fear its rise as well, and they too will do whatever they can to prevent it from achieving regional hegemony. Indeed, there is already substantial evidence that countries like India, Japan, Russia, as well as smaller powers like Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam,

are worried about China's ascendancy and are looking for ways to contain it. India and Japan, for example, signed a joint security declaration in October 2008, in good part because they are both worried about China's growing power. India and the United States,

which had testy relations at best during the Cold War,

have become good friends over the past decade, in large part because they both fear China. Just last month, the Obama Administration,

which is filled with people who preach to the world about the importance of human rights, announced that it was resuming relations

with Indonesia's elite special forces,

despite their rich history of human rights abuses. The reason for this shift was that Washington wants Indonesia on its side

as China grows more powerful, and as the New York Times reported, Indonesian officials

"dropped hints that the group might explore building ties with the Chinese military if the ban remained."

Singapore, which sits astride the critically important Straits of Malacca and worries about China's growing power, badly wants to upgrade its already close ties with the United States. And the recent decision by Japan with the United States. was driven in part by Tokyo's concerns

about China's growing assertiveness in the region

and the related need to keep the American security umbrella firmly in place over Japan. Most of China's neighbours will eventually join an American-led balancing coalition designed to check China's rise,

much the way Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and even China, joined forces with the United States to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War. I would like to discuss in more detail how I think China's rise will affect Australia in particular. There is no question that geography works to Australia's advantage - it is located far away from China

and there are large bodies of water separating the two countries. Australia, of course, faced a similar situation with regard to Imperial Japan, which helps explain why the Japanese military did not invade Australia

when it went on a rampage across Asia in December 1941. One might be tempted to think that Australia's location means that it has little to fear from China and therefore it can stay on the sidelines as the balancing coalition to contain China comes together. Indeed, the 2009 White Paper raises the possibility that "an Australian government might take the view

that armed neutrality was the best approach in terms of securing its territory and people." This is not going to happen, however, because China should it continue its rapid rise will eventually present a serious-enough threat to Australia that it will have no choice but to join the American-led alliance

to contain China. I would like to make three points in support of this claim. First, please remember that we are not talking about the threat posed China today. China's military does not have a lot of power projection capability at the moment and it is not a danger to its neighbours. We are talking about how Australian will think about China after it has undergone two more decades of impressive economic growth and has used its abundant wealth

to build a military that is filled with highly sophisticated weaponry. We are talking about a Chinese military

that comes close to rivalling the US military in terms of the quality of its weaponry. That Chinese military, however, should have two important advantages over its American counterpart. the US military since China's population

will be at least three times bigger than the US population by the middle of this century.

Furthermore, the United States will be at a significant disadvantage in its competition with China, because the American military will be projecting its power across 6,000 miles of ocean, while the Chinese military will be operating in its own backyard. In short, China is likely to have far more offensive military power in 2030 than it has in 2010.

Second, although Imperial Japan did not launch an amphibious assault against Australia in 1942, it seriously contemplated that option and decided against it

not only because of the difficulty of the operation, but also because Japan thought that it had an alternative strategy for dealing with Australia.

Specifically, it felt that it could use

its control of the Western Pacific to effectively blockade Australia and neutralise it. Although that strategy failed, we should not lose sight of the fact

that Imperial Japan was a grave threat to Australia, which is why Australia enthusiastically fought alongside the United States in World War II. Third, Chinese strategists are going to pay serious attention to Australia in the years ahead,

mainly because of oil. China's dependence on imported oil - which is already substantial - is going to increase markedly over the next few decades. Much of that imported oil will come out of the Middle East and most of it will be transported to China by ship. For all the talk about moving oil by pipelines and railroads

through Burma and Pakistan, the fact is that maritime transport is much easier and a much cheaper option. The Chinese, of course, know this and it is one reason why they are planning to build a blue-water navy. They want to be able to protect their sea lanes that run to and from the Middle East. China, however, faces a major geographical problem in securing those sea lanes, which has significant implications for Australia. Specifically, there are three major water passages that connect the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Otherwise, various South East Asian countries separate those two large bodies of water. to at least one of those passages at all times if it hopes to be able to control its sea lanes to and from the oil-rich Middle East. Chinese ships can go through the Straits of Malacca, which are surrounded by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, or they can go further south and traverse either the Lombok Strait or the Sunda Strait, both of which cut through Indonesia, and both of which bring you out into the open waters of the Indian Ocean just to the north-west of Australia. China, however, is not likely to be able to get through the Straits of Malacca in a conflict with the United States, because Singapore,

which is closely allied with Washington, sits astride that passageway. This is what Chinese strategists call "The Malacca Dilemma".

Therefore, China has a powerful incentive

to make sure its ships can move through the two main openings that run through Indonesia. This situation almost certainly means that China will maintain a significant military presence

in the waters off the northern coast of Australia and maybe even on Indonesian territory. China will for sure be deeply concerned about Australia's power projection capabilities, and will work to make sure that they cannot be used to shut down either the Lombok or Sunda Straits or threaten China'a shipping in the Indian Ocean. The steps that China takes to neutralise the threat that Australia poses to its sea lanes - and remember, we are talking about a much more powerful China than exists today those steps will surely push Canberra to work closely with Washington to contain China. In short, there are serious limits to how much geography can shield Australia from an expansive - how much geoography can shield Australia from an expansive China. The picture I have painted here this evening of what is likely to happen if China continues its impressive economic growth is not a pretty one. Indeed, it is downright depressing. I wish that I could tell a more optimistic story about the prospects for peace in the Asia-Pacific region. But the fact is that international politics is a nasty and dangerous business and no amount of goodwill can ameliorate the intense security competition that sets in

when an aspiring hegemon appears in Eurasia. And there is little doubt that there is one on the horizon. Thank you. APPLAUSE

While people are thinking about what they are going to say, can I take the liberty, John, of kicking off with the first question? The picture of heightened strategic competition in the Asia-Pacific between the US and China obviously poses a particular policy dilemna for Australia because the US is our most important strategic partner

and China has just become our most important trading partner. If you were about to advise the incoming prime minister - who we'll know about in a couple of weeks time - what kind of long-range strategy and policy should we be thinking about, in terms of ameliorating the implications

of that kind of heightened competition for Australia in the future, how do we balance up our trading interests with China and our strategic partnership with the United States?

This is a question that's all about the trade-off between economic considerations and political considerations. I think there's almost no question that in the years ahead between economic considerations and political considerations. and this is true of the Japanese as well - will continue to engage economically with China. But at the same time, I think what you will see happen is that on the political dimension, Australia and the United States and Japan will come together and build military forces that are designed to contained China. I think these two things will happen simultaneously. Now, some of you may think that that's not feasible. But if you think about the period before World War I, just to take one example, there was a huge amount of economic interdependence in Europe. Germany and Britain, Germany and Russia, and Germany and France engaged in a huge amount of economic intercourse. At the same time all of this trade all this economic intercourse was taking place, on the political side you had the formation of the Triple Entente - which included Britain, France and Russia - which was designed to contain Germany. which included Britain, France and Russia - In 1914, despite all that economic interdependence -

and remember, there was no Depression before World War I. The period before World War I in Europe was a period of great prosperity.

Nevertheless, you had World War I.

What this indicates to me is that when there's a clash between economic interests and security interests security interests almost always trump economic interests. And the reason for that is security is all about survival and there can never be a goal that's more important than survival. APPLAUSE I'd just like to say thank you, Professor, for your talk. My name's Leanna, and I'll try to keep this very brief. What I'd like to ask is you stated that the US's logical strategic policy would be to actively contain China's rising power. However, this seems to lead to a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy whereby that action would simply ensure that China pursues a policy of aggression and, at the very least, military expansion. That's correct. So, what I'd like to put to you is that do you believe that what you have said the US would do,

what action it would take to limit China's power is, in fact, in your opinion, what action they should take if it could simply lead to another, well, Cold War take-two, of sorts. Yeah. I mean, you're exactly right. That if the United States acts the way I say it will act

or should act, that that will scare the Chinese. And in effect, my argument is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You're correct. Again, this is the tragic element of international politics. My argument, to tie your question to the gentleman's question from the embassy

is that because you cannot be certain about what America's intentions will be if you're a Chinese policy maker, and because you cannot be certain what China's intentions will be if you're an Australian or a Japanese or an American policy maker you have to assume worst-case. You can't afford to allow yourself

to be in a position where you guessed wrong, because your survival may be at stake. This is why states acquire nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are the ultimate deterrent. And you want that protection just in case. So what the United States will do and what China will do is take measures that they see as essentially defensive in nature

but which the other side sees as offensive.

And that of course will trigger the other side to take further measures which will have the same affect in the opposite direction, and you'll get this spiralling mechanism. This is your whole point about a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's what's so depressing about the story I tell,

to be perfectly frank. AUDIENCE LAUGHS I mean, you hit the nail right on the head, right. to be perfectly frank. AUDIENCE LAUGHS from its own point of view

and that the United States and Australia should take all sorts of moves to prevent the Chinese from doing that. And you're saying to me, "John, what this is gonna do is create an intense security competition.

Shouldn't we be thinking of ways to avoid that? Let's avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy." And intuitively I find that very attractive. But then when I start to run the logics through my head, I can't figure out how to do that. Again, the tragedy of great power politics. APPLAUSE

John, I'd just like to thank you for a typically lucid and thought-provoking presentation. In this day and age, when you've been watching our election campaign for the last couple of weeks, lots of criticisms are made of our politicians these days for not standing for anything or not having convictions, and, "What do they really stand for?" I don't think anyone could ask that question of you.

LAUGHTER Whatever the audience's views are on your presentation tonight they're in no doubt that you have thought this through, You've got a very strong worldview and you've spent a lot more time thinking about this than most of us. So, I just want to on behalf of everyone here tonight, to thank you very much for a superb presentation.

World renowned foreign policy expert, Professor John Mearsheimer, on China's rise in Asia, and what it means for Australia. That's all from Big Ideas for today, but don't forget, there are many other thought-provoking big ideas

at our website. Just point your browser in the direction of - I'm Tony Jones. Till next time. Closed Captions by CSI This Program Is Captioned Live.

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