(Bloomberg) -- Australians are sharply divided over whether to join any military action to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion, despite record-high levels of support for the US alliance and growing unease toward Beijing’s intentions on the world stage.
A new survey released Tuesday night by the Lowy Institute, a foreign policy research group, found only a slim majority of Australians supported military action in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Out of those surveyed, 51% said they were in favor of Australia using its military forces to defend Taiwan, while 47% said they were against.
The unease over getting involved in a conflict comes despite record low levels of confidence in the Chinese government in the latest Lowy Institute Poll, a survey examining Australian attitudes to major foreign policy issues and challenges.
Australians’ opinions of China have soured dramatically since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with just 12% of those surveyed saying they trust Beijing to act responsibly in global affairs. In 2018, 52% of Australians said they had faith in China.
Attitudes toward international conflicts and the potential for one in the region have changed dramatically as well in recent years. According to Lowy, only 53% of Australians said they felt safe in the face of world events, down from 92% in 2010.
Overall 75% of Australians said they thought it was likely China would become a military threat to their country in the next 20 years, the highest number on record and up from 46% in 2018.
Support for the US alliance is at an all-time high, according to Lowy, with 87% saying the American military was important for Australia’s security. But Australians’ trust in the US has yet to recover from drops in support during the administration of former President Donald Trump. Out of those surveyed, 65% said they trusted the US to do the right thing in international affairs, behind the UK, Japan and France, and down from 83% in 2011.
A majority of respondents said they were also concerned about US interference in Australia’s political processes and 90% said the political instability in America was a critical or important threat to Australia’s future.
If the US decided to enter into a war with China independent of the questions over Taiwan, a majority of Australians said they would choose to remain neutral.
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