5444956674_afe4dddea6_bNothing so clearly signals Australia’s involvement in a more strategically competitive Asia as the writings of Australia’s leading strategic academics. In quieter times, our academics focused on the meaning of self-reliance, or the durability of American power in the Asia–Pacific. Gradually, China’s rise made its way onto the agenda. And by late last year academics were busily writing papers about whether intra-Asian conflict scenarios in North Asia might see Australia drawn in. In a paper published by the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at ANU, Rob Ayson and Des Ball outlined their concerns about possible escalation scenarios in North Asia. Their scenarios turn essentially upon a set of judgments that a minor armed clash between China and Japan could readily escalate; that the Americans would be drawn in quite quickly; and that China might be attracted towards early options for nuclear weapons use. Because of that possible progression, Rob and Des set out some guidance for Australian policy-makers that emphasizes the need to encourage both Japanese and Chinese counterparts to believe that they share common interests, and not merely competitive ones. Moreover, they caution that “any ideas of supporting Japan and/or the United States in a small North Asian conflict could involve Canberra in a catastrophically escalating war.” More