Thursday, April 17, 2008

Advice from Australia

Despite all the talk about leagues of democracies and partnerships and so on, it remains unfortunate that we here in Washington pay so little attention to what some of our most important allies are saying and doing.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's comments in Beijing--delivered in Mandarin Chinese--seem more thoughtful about the West's complicated relationship with China than what U.S. politicians are saying. Also, by neither accepting nor snubbing the PRC's invitation to attend the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, Rudd preserves his own freedom of action.

The speech is a bit of a compromise, in that Rudd delivered it directly to Chinese students at the university but it was not broadcast live, so some of his criticisms were not aired to the public at large--but his intended audience, the leadership, heard him loud and clear. I think it has some echoes of Reagan's 1984 Fudan speech in Shanghai as well.

The full text is available via the prime minister's site but I'd like to excerpt the following:

"To many people in China, these changes bring a better and richer life. People are able to make decisions about where they work, how they live and set their own goals. They can build their own businesses. At the same time, there are still many problems in China – problems of poverty, problems of uneven development, problems of pollution, problems of broader human rights.

"It is also important to recognise that China’s change is having a great impact not just on China, but also on the world.


"The global community looks forward to China fully participating in all the institutions of the global rules-based order, including in security, in the economy, in human rights, in the environment. And we look forward to China making active contributions to the enhancement of that order in the future. It is a necessary task of responsible global citizenship.


"Some have called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics because of recent problems in Tibet. As I said in London on Sunday, I do not agree. I believe the Olympics are important for China’s continuing engagement with the world. Australia like most other countries recognises China’s sovereignty over Tibet. But we also believe it is necessary to recognise there are significant human rights problem in Tibet. The current situation in Tibet is of concern to Australians. We recognise the need for all parties to avoid violence and find a solution through dialogue.As a long-standing friend of China I intend to have a straightforward discussion with China’s leaders on this.


"A strong relationship, and a true friendship, are built on the ability to engage in direct, frank and ongoing dialogue about our fundamental interests and future vision. In the modern, globalised world, we are all connected; connected not only by politics and economics, but also in the air we breathe. A true friend is one who can be a “zhengyou”, that is a partner who sees beyond immediate benefit to the broader and firm basis for continuing, profound and sincere friendship. In other words, a true friendship which “offers unflinching advice and counsels restraint” to engage in principled dialogue about matters of contention."

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