Australia’s 26th Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd delivered the inaugural La Trobe University China Studies Oration on 13 February at the State Library of Victoria. The title of the hour-long presentation was “Reflections on the Australia-China Relationship”. The event was hosted by the La Trobe University’s China Studies Research Centre. Centre Director, Professor John Makeham, welcomed Mr Rudd and University Chancellor, Professor Richard Larkins, thanked Mr Rudd and concluded the event. Over 200 people attended the Oration.
Mr Rudd began by reviewing the phenomena of China’s rise and Trump’s America. “China’s rise is an extraordinary phenomenon against all the measures of modern history…. Where economic strength and power go, so proceeds political power. Where political power proceeds, so proceeds foreign policy influence. And where foreign policy influence proceeds, so too goes strategic influence more broadly.”
Mr Rudd interpreted the implications of the China’s rise in terms of its own prioritized interests: maintaining a one-party state, defending the unity of the country, growing the economy, responding to environmental challenges and securing its boarders.
Compared with a more confident China, the Unites States is showing more strategic uncertainty about its future global and regional role influenced by its America First concept. Against this background, “Australia seeks to navigate its own future in the twenty-first century - in a global and regional environment of compounding complexity, compounding change and with increasingly uncertain destinations”. Mr Rudd described how Australia has chosen to carve out its future with China in the following terms: “an enduring security relationship with the United States, and an expanding economic relationship with China, while refusing to yield to the false dichotomy that Australia must somehow choose between the two. And on top of this, an Australia always prepared to defend democracy, human rights and the rule of law, both at home and abroad.”
Finally, Mr Rudd challenged the consistency of the current Australian government’s China policy. “What we require in the complexity of this Australia-China relationship, given all the differences which exist in terms of human rights and our values as a liberal democracy, yet all our common economic interests, as well as our common and different strategic interests and perspectives in the regional and global order, is a balanced relationship”.
You can view the event on Youtube: https://youtu.be/IMTV3qK5YVE