An arms race between the United States and China - reminiscent of the former Soviet Union Cold War - has already begun, a leading Australian academic says.
While Defence Minister Stephen Smith quickly ruled out a proposed US aircraft carrier battle group base near Perth, Australian National University (ANU) Associate Professor Ron Huisken said the fact the Americans were considering it was proof they were already locked in an arms race with rising superpower China.
Prof Huisken, attached to ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, told AAP on Thursday both nations were making military decisions exclusively to counter each other.
This was borne out in China's decision to build its own aircraft carrier fleet, and the US's increasing presence in the Asia-Pacific.
Mr Smith said in April it was "impossible to contain China" and denied his announced increase in military co-operation between Australia and the US was a response to China.
Prof Huisken said it was clear the US was targeting China.
"China's potential is already being factored into key US numbers, like how many carriers they need in the western Pacific ... that was not there before," he said.
He added China would be tempted to bolster its military might to make up for its lack of influence on the political world stage.
"There's also what's called `soft power' - the ability to attract friends and allies," Prof Huisken said.
"The Chinese have a big void there.
"That frustrates the hell out of them. They reckon they should get more reward for what they've accomplished than they're getting - and that's dangerous."