News - Sydney Morning Herald

China Sees Maritime Periphery as 'Deeply Hostile,' Rudd Tells U.S. Cadets

    Author:
  • Kirsty Needham
| Mar. 18, 2018

Beijing: Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has told the Westpoint military academy in the United States that China sees its maritime periphery as "deeply hostile" and the region as allied against it.

He urged America's future military leaders to understand how Chinese leaders think "and how the world should most productively engage with them".

"The Chinese are fundamentally fixated on the formidable array of US military assets deployed by US Pacific Command across the entire region," he said.

China's response was to seek to fracture the ring of US allies, which includes Australia.

China had missile forces targeted in a strategy of "air-sea denial" to cause doubt in the minds of US Pacific Command on the "winnability" of large US military operations in support of Taiwan, or in the South China Sea.

But China's softer economic engagement in the region was the bottom line, he said.

"China has already become a more important economic partner than the United States to practically every country in wider East Asia ... From economic power proceeds political power; from political power proceeds foreign policy power; and from foreign policy power proceeds strategic power. That is China's strategy."

China will replace the US as the world's largest economy, and will begin to challenge US regional, but not global military, dominance, he said.

As it rises, China will want to change the global order, but it was not clear by how much.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, after his anti-corruption campaign had not only cleaned up the country's "almost industrial level corruption" but also cleared away political opponents.

"For the rest of the world, Xi Jinping represents a formidable partner, competitor or adversary, depending on the paths that are chosen in the future."

Mr Rudd's speech to West Point, a 200-year-old US military institution, was made earlier this month as China's annual rubber-stamp Parliament opened.

At the weekend, the National People's Congress continued to approve big changes from past Chinese political practice, driven by Xi.

Xi's close ally and former chief of the corruption campaign, Wang Qishan, was elevated to Vice-President of China, with no term limits.

Wang, 69, is expected to steer China's turbulent relationship with the US. He has close ties to Wall Street and met former Trump adviser Steve Bannon last year.

His promotion comes despite being past retirement age, and having stepped down from the party's elite power group, the Politburo Standing Committee.

China's new National Supervision Commission will widen the anti-corruption campaign beyond Communist Party members, but will be led by a more junior official than the Communist Party graft watchdog.

Yang Xiaodu was the deputy head of Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which indicates the new civilian commission will be subservient to the party.

Mr Rudd said in his speech there was no real prospect of pushback within China against Xi in the foreseeable future.

Xi's form of authoritarianism asserted the party over the state, and ideology over pragmatic policy, he said.

In economic policy, China's reform had slowed. There are "worrying signs" as the party asserted its role in private firms, including the government considering taking equity in the most successful Chinese private firms.

He suggested China could be going left on politics in order to go right on the economy, but the jury was out.

The next year under China's new economic team, including Mr Wang, will be critical.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Needham, Kirsty. “China Sees Maritime Periphery as 'Deeply Hostile,' Rudd Tells U.S. Cadets.” News, Sydney Morning Herald, March 18, 2018.

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