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Kevin Rudd: “China wants to adjust the international order”

Lecture at Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences at the invitation of MERICS

China’s president Xi Jinping follows a grand strategy when he talks about a multipolar world and reform of global governance, according to former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd. In a lecture in Berlin, Rudd recently described China's efforts to push for change within the United Nations and through the creation of institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure and Development Bank (AIIB). Beijing was more actively involved in UN institutions than ever before, Rudd said, describing the new approach as a clear break with the famous dictum by Deng Xiaoping: “hide your strength, bide your time.” Rudd, who served as Australia’s prime minister from 2007 to 2010 and again in 2013, is a seasoned China expert, who is fluent in Mandarin and has met Xi Jinping several times. 

He’s currently president of the New York-based Asia Society Policy Institute. He was speaking at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences at the invitation of MERICS.Rudd said, China’s new approach was partly a result of the country’s growing confidence and global integration and partly an active attempt by Beijing to reduce the influence of the United States. However, Beijing wasn’t just interested in working within the existing order: „China is in the business of changing international institutions.” Yet the precise roadmap towards multilateralism with Chinese characteristics and the exact content were still unclear.

Xi Jinping himself is the driving force behind China’s new foreign policy. Rudd described him as a strong and confident leader. Unlike his predecessor Hu Jintao, Xi would not lead by committee but would take important decisions himself to achieve his goal of turning China into a respected global player. But like his predecessor Xi knows that his own and China’s future will not be decided on the global stage but much closer to home. 

Rudd reminded his audience that Xi’s core interests were to stay in power, preserve the unity of China and secure the future and credibility of the Communist Party. Foreign policy came further down on his list of priorities. As a man steeped in history, Rudd said, Xi Jinping was well aware that good emperors keep the empire together, bad emperors let it disintegrate. 

Audio recording: Kevin Rudd on China’s nascent strategy for a new global order

  • Stiftung Mercator
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