Australians now have their heads screwed on right about our relationships with China and Japan, but an inexplicable number persist in distrusting the country that matters vastly more to us than any, the US.
Also, most say we should neither back the US in a war with China nor send our armed forces to Taiwan to help defend it against invasion. That means Australians aren't thinking much of the situation they'd be in if China won.
The data comes from the latest edition of the Lowy Institute's excellent annual survey of Australians' views on international affairs.
Public opinion on such matters moves sluggishly. It takes years for the average person, with a lot more things to think about than doings in East Asia, to wake up even to rising international dangers to their country.
After decades of playing possum, China showed its fangs in 2013 under President Xi Jinping. Its first big move was to begin an attempt to seize the South China Sea.
It now seems incredible that as late as 2016 China was the country that Australians most widely saw as their best friend in Asia. Its friendship was ranked highest by 30 per cent of people surveyed then. Only 25 per cent put Japan first.
China is now rated as our best friend in Asia by 7 per cent of Australians. Let's not stop to wonder who these loonies are. Instead, note with satisfaction that others have wisely shifted their view, so now 44 per cent think Japan is our best Asian mate.
They'd be right, and even more so if we adjusted the question to "who is our most important friend in Asia?" The great size of Japan's economy counts. It can pay for a lot of military clout, which ultimately is the only thing that has much chance of keeping China in check.
Japan is also the global power that Australians think is most likely to act responsibly, with 85 per cent reckoning it will, ranking it just ahead of Britain. But what is really frustrating is that the US has the trust of only 61 per cent of Australians.
Do Aussies know which side their bread is buttered on? Yes, the US is among the many countries that are performing badly on greenhouse emissions, and the mistaken Anglo-American justification for the 2003 Iraq War is not forgotten.
But for 82 years the US has been the chief source of security for this country. And that isn't enough to earn the trust of 39 per cent of Australians?
My bet is that, as Aussies become more worried about Chinese aggression (and they will), more of them will persuade themselves that the US isn't so bad, after all. Always back the horse called Self Interest.
The Lowy Institute finds that 57 per cent of Australians would oppose supporting the US in a war with China. That's not surprising, but the next question they may want to think about is whether they would want the US to support Australia if China won such a war, gaining dominance over East Asia.
If China invaded Taiwan, most Australians would be happy to send weapons there or use our navy to help prevent China from blockading it, the institute finds. But they wouldn't want to send military personnel to Taiwan.
MORE AGE OF THE DRAGON:
The poll organisers may want to rephrase that question in future surveys. If we did send forces to help Taiwan, they'd be aircraft and ships at sea, probably not soldiers on the island.
An interesting finding is that most Australians would support US military basing on our territory, even though our policy is not to do so. The people are actually ahead of the government on that one, and in fact the institute's surveys going back to 2011 have consistently found majority support for local US basing.
Actually, something pretty similar to a foreign military base will be established at our naval facility near Perth as early as 2027. To help us get used to supporting nuclear submarines, the US Navy and Royal Navy will send such vessels there for what's being called a rotational presence.
That means we won't continuously support a particular set of US and British submarines, but there will always be some of them coming and going. It won't look like an entirely Australian base.
When cremations become secret
China is withholding cremation data for the last quarter of 2022. It's obviously suppressing evidence of a great surge in deaths that occurred when Xi's destructive pandemic-control campaign collapsed in an explosion of infection in December.
China suffered increasingly severe controls more than a year longer than most Western countries, as Xi, for political reasons, kept waiting for effective domestic vaccines.
Then it all blew up. Officials lost control. We used to talk about flattening the curve to keep COVID-19 cases within hospital capacity. In December and January, China got a spike a mile high.
"So what was the meaning of the three years of controls?" Chinese people asked.
Still, the party keeps drumming out the propaganda that its COVID-19 policy was "a miracle in human history". Yes, black can be white in a Leninist state.
There's just that little problem that fatalities must have been horrendous in December and January as patient numbers overwhelmed doctors and nurses.
So data due this month on how many bodies were cremated late last year hasn't turn up. You can bet the January-March numbers will be suppressed, too.
After that, any Chinese population data for 2023 will have to show a big dip, if it's honest. So it won't be.
- Bradley Perrett was based in Beijing as a journalist from 2004 to 2020.