Kevin Rudd: “Can Australia view its relations with China rationally?”

Wang Wenwen

Published: May 12, 2022

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

In his speech at the Australian National University (ANU) on Wednesday, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd lashed out at Defense Minister Peter Dutton, labelling him an “idiot” for believing hairy-chested commentary about China would improve Australia’s strategic circumstances. He also targeted China, saying that if Chinese officials really wanted a reset in the relationship with Australia, he “could not think of a dumber thing to do than what they just did in the Solomons,” according to a Guardian report.

The Australian general election is in full swing and has become a tool by opposing political parties to exploit political benefits by taking aim at China.

Against the backdrop of the election, Rudd’s statement is just a campaign ploy. Rudd has been actively taking part in helping his Labor Party to win the election. He has criticized the failure of the Morrison government and the Liberal Party in addressing foreign policy and security issues, particularly those related to China. He blamed Morrison for “letting China buy the Port of Darwin” and “failing on China’s move into the Solomon Islands,” the latter referring to the recent security pact between China and the Solomon Islands. He even labelled Morrison as “a desperate little man.”

Qin Sheng, executive research fellow at the Center for Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the words and deeds of Rudd as an Australian politician all serve his own party and Australia’s national interests, and his blatant opposition to the China-Solomon Islands deal serves two purposes. First, it is a good opportunity to attack the adversary party; second, it reinforces Australia’s interventionist tradition that sees Pacific Island countries as Australia’s sphere of influence.

Chen Hong, president of the Chinese Association of Australian Studies and director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University, believes that Rudd has never truly spoken for China, but Chen acknowledges that he is an old China hand.

The ANU event on Wednesday was to promote Rudd’s new book on China-US relations titled The Avoidable War. In the book, Rudd argues that geopolitical disaster between China and the US is still avoidable, but only if these two giants can find a way to coexist without betraying their core interests through what he calls “managed strategic competition.”

“If Rudd made such judgments on China-US relations, why couldn’t he view China-Australia relations with the same rationality?” Chen asked.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Australian Financial Review ran two op-eds by Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian. In the first article titled “Let’s celebrate 50 years of China-Australia relations,” Ambassador Xiao acknowledges twists and turns in the 50 years of diplomatic relations between China and Australia, but says a healthy and stable relationship is in the interests of both countries. In the second article titled “Australia, China must view the other with objectivity and respect,” the ambassador said different nations have different political and value systems, but there is no need to negate each other or split into different camps.

Chen noted that there are two big events this year for China-Australia relations – one is federal general election and the other is the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between the two countries, both of which serve as an opportunity for bilateral relations to turn to a new page.

Now the problem is: Can Australia view its relations with China rationally?

Read the original article on the site of Global Times.