‘Stop buzzing about China’: Beijing slams defence plans

China has weighed in on Australia's plan to spend extra money on defence under a new strategy unveiled by Defence Minister Richard Marles.

China has weighed in on Australia's plan to spend extra money on defence under a new strategy unveiled by Defence Minister Richard Marles. Photo: AAP

China has slammed plans by the federal government to pump billions of extra dollars into defence over the next decade, urging Australia to abandon its “Cold War mentality”.

Defence Minister Richard Marles on Wednesday unveiled the new national defence strategy and investment program that includes naval upgrades, which will increase funding to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2033/34.

“We hope Australia will correctly view China’s development and strategic intentions, abandon the Cold War mentality, do more things to keep the region peaceful and stable, and stop buzzing about China,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said.

He was responding to a question at the Foreign Ministry’s regular weekly press briefing about the National Defence Strategy and comments from Marles about China’s strategic objectives.

Marles on Wednesday quoted the strategy, which states China’s has employed “coercive tactics in pursuit of its strategic objectives.”

The security risks in the Indo-Pacific were coming from “major countries” outside the region, Lin said.

“They have been forming exclusive groupings, stoking bloc confrontation, and in particular, muddying the waters in the South China Sea, as if the world needed any more instability. China firmly opposes it,” he said.

Defending the initiative on Thursday on morning media rounds, Marles said it was “ridiculous” to suggest Australia was trying to match the strength of China and the US in the Indo-Pacific.

“You’re talking about great powers and clearly, we’re not seeking to be a peer of the United States or China. Which is why … commentators who walked down that road, frankly, lack wit,” he said.

The defence strategy includes a push to widen the recruitment eligibility criteria in a bid to fill the shortfall in personnel.

Expanding the criteria would allow defence to recruit non-Australian citizens.

Marles said that’ would not happen overnight.

“It’s reasonable to describe that in terms of years,” he told ABC’s Radio National on Thursday.

“Looking at certain classes of non-Australian citizens as potential recruits for the ADF going forward is an important step that we will need to take if we’re going to meet the challenge of growing our defence force through to 2040.”

Marles said the government’s immediate challenge was to improve conditions for Australians currently serving or thinking about joining the ADF.

“Trying to streamline recruitment to make it a better offer for Australians is what we’re doing right now and that is actually having an impact,” he said.

The defence minister said there had been a fall in the number of personnel leaving the military and recruitment numbers were starting to turn around.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Marles said the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders calling Australia home was an obvious place to start.

Responding to criticism extra defence spending the government will pump into the ADF over the next decade would come too late, Marles said the decision had been made “quickly”.


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