There are warnings a military conflict between the United States and China is growing in likelihood and could be a real possibility in the next five to 10 years.
In a speech at the University of Adelaide on Monday, former defence minister Christopher Pyne said the likelihood of a "kinetic war" in the Indo-Pacific was becoming higher, and the trigger that could pull the US - and subsequently Australia – into it was Chinese forces entering Taiwan.
"Five years ago, I would've said that the possibility was very unlikely, now I would have to say that the possibility is more likely than it was then," said Mr Pyne, who also served as defence industry minister during his time in politics.
“The reality is that China is confident and capable and is not embarrassed to show it. Most concerning of all, it has turned up the pressure on Taiwan - the most likely next flashpoint in the region.”
Tensions are currently high on the island, which is home to almost 24 million people and situated to the east of China and north of Hong Kong.
Over the past year, shows of military strength by Beijing there have increased considerably, with Chinese fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers breaching Taiwan's air defence zone on a near-daily basis.
A record 25 Chinese military jets and bombers breached Taiwan's defence zone last Monday.
Since the 17th century, the island’s rule has gone from Indigenous people to Dutch colonisers, to China, to Japan and back to China.
In 1949, at the end of the civil war, Chinese republic forces retreated to Taiwan as communist armies took control of the mainland. Republic forces controlled the island under military rule until democratic reforms in the 1980s.
Today, Taiwan lives under the threat of invasion by China, which has vowed to one day seize the island, by force if needed.
Malcolm Davies, an analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says China wants Taiwan back under its control.
“The Chinese government sees Taiwan as lost territory,"
Why does this matter to Australia?
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it would be “a serious mistake for anyone to try to change the existing status quo” in the region.
That commitment to helping Taiwan could be what gets Australia to spring into action and help its ally.
“If the US chose not to intervene as Taiwan was being invaded by China, their credibility would be gone. That would be seen by Japan, Australia and others that the US [might] not come to their aid in the event of a crisis with China,” Dr Davies said.
And in the same vein, Dr Davies said, Australia would have to come to the aid of the US.