Australian FM: Bring China into system

Thursday, 5 May 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

WASHINGTON, (AFP) - Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd pressed for a global effort to bring China into institutions, saying that the future of the world economy depended on it.

Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking China expert and former prime minister, said that bodies such as the Group of 20 major economies and the East Asia Summit could put Beijing on the right path as its power grows.

“Continued regional and global economic growth will depend on maintaining for the next 40 years the sort of strategic stability in the East that we have seen over the last 40 years,” Rudd said in an address in Washington.

“And this will not be an easy thing to do,” he said at the Brookings Institution think-tank.

Rudd acknowledged myriad concerns abroad about Beijing -- from growing assertiveness to human rights to environmental pollution -- but said that it was crucial also to look at Chinese leaders’ own interests and way of thinking.

Rudd said the United States and its allies should talk to China in the terms of its philosophical tradition -- such as the concept, often cited by Beijing’s leadership, of creating a “harmonious world.”The former prime minister pointed to the Group of 20 -- a collection of the world’s largest economies borne of the 2008 financial crisis -- as an area where China has had a “positive” and “forward-looking” role.

“The Chinese recognized, particularly at a time of potential global economic implosion, that they had huge interests at stake in preserving the order,” he said.

Rudd also stressed the importance of the East Asia Summit, an annual forum created in 2005 and which will include the US president for the first time this year when Barack Obama attends the talks on the Indonesian island of Bali.

The expanded East Asia Summit largely follows the lines of the “Asia-Pacific Community” concept that Rudd proposed as prime minister.

But Rudd said that China’s track record remained mixed and highlighted its assertiveness on territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

He called China’s defense of North Korea even after the sinking of South Korea’s Cheonan warship “problematic,” but said that Beijing had shifted on Iran and Sudan and noted that it did not block the UN resolution on Libya.

China, which sees itself as “at last resuming its proper place in the global community,” was also strongly concerned about domestic stability, Rudd said.

“Tiananmen in 1989 has left a searing impression on the current generation of Chinese leaders. Hence their reaction to any migration of the sentiments associated with the current Arab spring,” he said.

China has launched its biggest crackdown on dissent since the 1989 Tiananmen Square revolt, rounding up scores of critics including the prominent artist Ai Weiwei in the wake of the wave of democracy protests sweeping the Middle East.

Rudd welcomed the calm over one issue that has long raised tensions -- Taiwan. But he hinted at concern next year when the island’s Beijing-friendly president, Ma Ying-jeou, stands for re-election.

“The Taiwan Straits remains mercifully stable, although the stability that we see now remains hostage to Taiwanese domestic electoral processes in the year ahead,” he said.

Rudd, who has spent much of his life studying China, said he saw a “third way” in relations in which nations work on common interests with Beijing but are open about their disagreements.

“The arid dichotomy between being characterized as either pro-Chinese or anti-Chinese has to be consigned to history,” he said.