Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers take part in a flag-raising ceremony in Hong Kong to mark the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong handover to China. File picture: Kin Cheung/AP

Canberra - The chair of the Australian parliament's powerful security and intelligence committee has warned against China's rise, likening Australia's current experience with China to that of France in the face of an aggressive Nazi Germany in the 1940s. 

In an opinion piece published on Thursday, Andrew Hastie, a conservative government lawmaker, wrote that Australia faces its biggest economic and national security challenges in the next decade from the rise of China. 

"If we don't understand the challenge ahead... choices will be made for us. Our sovereignty, our freedoms, will be diminished," he wrote.

The West once believed economic liberalisation would naturally lead to China becoming a democracy, just as the French believed steel and concrete forts would guard against a German advance in 1940, he said. 

"But their thinking failed catastrophically," Hastie, a former SAS captain, said in an op-ed piece in newspapers the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Hastie said the French "had failed to appreciate the evolution of mobile warfare," similar to Australia failing "to see how mobile our authoritarian neighbour has become."

Australia faces a massive dilemma trying to balance its relationship with China, its biggest trading partner, and the United States, its closest strategic ally. 

Australian media reaction to Hastie's comments was swift and largely negative.

Opposition Labor parliamentarian Jim Chalmers called Hastie's remarks extreme, overblown and unwelcome, saying Australia needed to navigate complex issues when managing the relationship with China. 

"This kind of intervention makes that harder, not easier [to navigate the relationship with China]," Chalmers told Australian radio ABC. 

dpa