Australia and Japan are in this together. We are both threatened by China, and both countries can see that the danger to their security would rise enormously if Taiwan were conquered.
The idea would have amazed earlier generations of Australians, but we need to begin thinking of Japan as a close military partner. Defence co-operation between the two countries should go ahead as fast as possible, and it should become as close as possible.
This month Japan improved our security by sending a signal to China that reduced the risk of war. Australia and Japan can reduce the risk further with such moves as increasingly training their forces together, helping each other to improve defences.
They're doing that right now in Talisman Sabre, a large, mostly Australian-US military exercise held every two years. Japan is participating this time.
From the end of World War II until the past few years, the Japanese defence forces focused almost entirely on north-east Asia. And, for decades, Tokyo sought close military relations with only the US, thinking that other countries were unimportant.
But Japan began taking part in Talisman Sabre in 2019. And in November it signed an agreement with Australia to facilitate the stationing of forces on each other's territory - for training, for example. Previously, it had no such agreement with any country except the US.
Japan is becoming important to us because it is the country to our north that we can rely on most to stand up to China. It has a political faction that has preferred a more appeasing approach, in the hope of promoting exports, but the clear trend in Tokyo these days is to prioritise national security.
The signal it sent this month was a statement that it would help the US defend Taiwan. This sounds warlike but in fact helps keep the peace.
"If a major incident happened [over Taiwan], it's safe to say it would be related to a situation threatening the survival [of Japan]," Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro said in a speech in Tokyo.
"If that is the case, Japan and the US must defend Taiwan together," he said, according to a translation by the Japan Times.
This was big news because Japan's position had previously been ambiguous, creating a risk that China could bet on its neighbour standing aside and undermining the US ability to help Taiwan. China might, for example, have calculated - or miscalculated - that it could bluff its way to domination over the island, thinking that, without Japanese help, the US would back down.
No doubt Beijing still hopes it can eventually force the US to give up on Taiwan. But at least it can now see more of the other side's cards on the table. Secrecy is important in military affairs, but to avoid a war it's also important to let the potential enemy know something about what you would do.
The speech was followed by backtracking in Japan. Aso had only expressed a personal opinion, a government spokesperson said, using a classic Japanese line for avoiding official responsibility for a statement - as if a deputy prime minister giving a prepared speech could be expressing only a personal opinion.
China undoubtedly got Aso's message.
Defending Taiwan is already a great challenge for US armed forces. It might be impossible without support from Japan, which hosts US bases and can do much to protect them and US ships and aircraft.
Since we've mentioned the Talisman Sabre exercise, it's interesting to note that China is also participating, in a way - in its usual way, in fact. It has sent an intelligence-gathering ship to collect radio transmissions. These are signals carrying messages between forces, data that guides weapons, and radar emissions.
The arrival of the Chinese ship has been widely reported in Australia as something shocking, but countries routinely listen in to the military transmissions of those that they think of as potential enemies. China wants the information so its engineers and tacticians can assess systems on ships and aircraft used in the exercise. They might also learn a thing or two about the tactics used on what they see as the other side.
If there's anything surprising here, it's not that the intelligence operation is under way; it's that most Australians have not realised until now that, by sending such ships, China shows it regards this country as a potential enemy.
We needn't to get too indignant about this, however. What do you think our submarines do in peacetime?
You'll never get the Royal Australian Navy to admit it, but we can confidently assume that one of their most useful functions is loitering near Chinese exercises, monitoring the goings-on with their sonars, and, every so often, sticking up antennas to collect radio intelligence.
A Brisbane Olympics boycott?
Meanwhile, congratulations to Brisbane on winning the right to host the 2032 Olympic Games. Don't bet your house on China attending, however.
Unless China radically improves its international behaviour, which doesn't look at all likely, it should be in a state of high hostility with much of the world by 2032. Australia, with the US, is likely to remain among the leaders in resisting it, so Beijing will have plenty of reasons by then to spit the dummy.
There must also be a chance that it won't attend the 2028 games in Los Angeles.
On the other hand, Olympic attendance is valuable to the CCP, because it's a key tool for propaganda: the government pulls out all stops to collect gold and stoke up national pride.
Reacting to China's human rights violations, the European Parliament has called for EU members to withhold attendance by officials, but not competitors, at next year's Winter Olympics in Beijing.
- Bradley Perrett was based in Beijing as a journalist from 2004 to 2020.
- This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.