Peter Dutton has rejected calls to tone down his rhetoric on China despite concerns it could lead to blowback within the Chinese-Australian community.

Chinese-Australians abandoned the Coalition at the May 21 election, dumping five out of the eight MPs that held seats where there was a high number of the group’s voters.

But despite the warning, the Opposition Leader has doubled down, saying keeping up the pressure on Beijing was the right thing to do.

“There is no sense in a couple of months or years’ time saying China went into Taiwan, we didn’t see this coming,” he told Nine.

“I think if you looked at what happened in Ukraine, I think there would be a lot of people saying, ‘If only we put more pressure on Putin not to go into Ukraine in the first instance we wouldn’t have the scenes we see now’.

“I think we are right in shining a huge spotlight on the behaviour, calling it out. If we do that, that gives us the best chance of keeping peace in our region.”

On Wednesday, the former defence minister warned China could escalate its attacks in the South China Sea at “any stage” as tensions boil after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Beijing has indicated a series of military drills, including launching ballistic missiles and air and maritime exercises that are wreaking havoc on trade routes, could continue indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles was more reserved in his language, calling for “a return to normality”.

“The world would breathe a sigh of relief if we were able to see a return to normal peaceful activity in that part of the world,” he told Nine.

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