Conflict with China is just about the last thing anyone wants, says leading international defence journalist Bradley Perrett.
"But Australians need to know what could happen," the former Beijing-based correspondent writes Saturday, in the first of an exclusive commentary series about Australia's relationship with its biggest trading partner.
ACM, the publisher of this masthead, has commissioned Perrett to share his insights each Saturday on Australia's biggest defence and strategic policy challenge since World War II.
Diplomatic relations with China have reached their lowest point in decades. The possibility of conflict over Taiwan is the subject of open speculation. And Australian businesses are bearing the brunt of a trade war that has ensnared commodities as diverse as lobsters, barley, wine and coal.
Against this backdrop, ACM has asked Perrett, who last year completed 16 years based in Beijing, to use his unique experience to analyse and explain the situation.
With the support of the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas, Perrett's weekly column will cover all aspects of Australia's relationship with China, encompassing defence, strategy, trade, economics and domestic policy.
His first column, which begins Saturday and continues Monday, looks at how a war over Taiwan could unfold. You can read Saturday's column online now.
Perrett's time in China has given him an uncommon understanding of the country, with insight into how it thinks, its national priorities, popular sentiment, and the instincts and behaviour of its officials. This is combined with his strong grasp of defence strategy and the intricacies of military technology.
Perrett returned to Australia in October last year after living and working in China since 2004. He left Beijing after judging the situation untenable for Australian journalists.
A Mandarin speaker, Perrett was the long-time Asia-Pacific bureau chief in Beijing for Aviation Week, the benchmark publication for the world's aerospace and defence industry.
He has also worked for Reuters in Canberra, Singapore, London and Beijing, focused mainly on economic and political news. His career began at ACM's Newcastle Herald in 1987.
Perrett's background as a resident of China for so long is unusual among journalists; for a defence writer it is unique. Correspondents sent to the country by Australian media have typically stayed for only a few years.