The Truth About China – Jason Yat-Sen Li, Kevin Rudd, Yaqui Wang, Vicky Xiuzhong Xu, Peter Harcher

welcome to 40 digital a weekend of online conversation about the dangerous realities that surround us albeit at a safe distance my name is Simon Longstaff I’m executive director of the ethic center and co-founder of the festival of Dangerous Ideas like so many other festivals from around the world Bodi was cancelled by a government decision to lock down the community just before it was due to be presented so this weekend we pick up some of those conversations that might have been presented during the course of the conversation and also take account of the new pressures being presented by covert 19 on so many topics that really matter in today’s first session the truth about China a panel of China watchers are going to interrogate our infatuation with China the fact that we may have been seduced by economic prosperity only to find that the reality may be somewhat more challenging than originally supposed apart from the general change in circumstances the escalation in global tensions from around the world caused by this pandemic and now bringing all prospects into sharper focus now a little later former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will be presenting by video in an interview filmed earlier with Peter harsher and this will be followed by a panel of experts youch our wang-jae seen yat-sen Lee and Viki Zhu who will be in conversation with Peter Harsha so turning now to former prime minister and inaugural president of the Asia Society Policy Institute Kevin Rudd in conversation with the editor the international editor of The Sydney Morning Herald Peter haja Kevin Rudd welcome to the festival of Dangerous Ideas let me begin by asking you how it comes to be that for a man who spends most of his time in New York we happen to have the pleasure of your company what were all huddled here together in the pandemic well a good a Peter good to be with you and and for those who are part of the festival of Dangerous Ideas let’s be dangerous together well reasonably dangerous anyway why am i back in Oz well I went back to work in New York where I run an American think tank in fact I’ve been there since I came second in the last Australian Federal Elections not the last ones but the 2013 elections but having me back at work in January February March and finally persuaded the powers that be within my own institution to allow all my staff to a work from home and be get off the New York subway my wife to Ray said get the hints so out of New York and back to the People’s Republic of Queensland and I’ve been in I’ve been in initially isolation and then subsequently was to raise since about the middle of March so New York was an even more dangerous idea than Brisbane um can I ask you about this pandemic which we none of us expected to be in but which we find ourselves in what’s it revealing to us do you think Kevin about about China where it began about the US and the world order perhaps yeah I’ve been talking to a range of folk both in China United States about these people who are seeking to be analytical about it and it’s it’s a tough question it’s a bit like the covert 19 crisis has turbocharged and accelerated the speed timeline and focus associated with pre-existing underlying structural trends in the international order so what do I mean by all that we all know there’s been geopolitical tension between the Americans and the Chinese prior to this occurring the trade war just being the most recent example secondly on top of that we also know now that China has itself become increasingly assertive than and the prosecution of its national interests both within our region but also globally but thirdly with this event this pandemic we’ve had an eruption of let’s call it new factors in the case of the Americans what I see is a damaged America coming out of this covert 19 crisis as people look to the appalling state of the American domestic

response the appalling nature of presidential leadership but more importantly for the rest of the world a complete lack of interest on the part of Washington in terms of leading a global recovery either in public health or in the economy but you know something often people stop with their analysis there and they think they’re for America down China up well actually no my own interpretation is that China emerges from this pandemic this covered 19 crisis equally damaged and probably more so not least because of the origins of the virus coming out of walk on also the series of unanswered questions about notification within China and through the w-h-o to the rest of the world and frankly some clumsy attempts by the Chinese wolf warrior diplomats to manage the international messaging around us so where do we end up both these great powers I think more rapidly than any of us would have anticipated significantly weakened by this event and but the danger is the institutions of global governance have also been reached the w-h-o just a classic case in point where it becomes almost the battleground for binary geopolitics and so my greatest anxiety is coming out of this crisis we don’t end up with China up or America up we end up with both down the institutions of global governance weakened and a trend to what I described as global anarchy so we’ve seen an America under Donald Trump that’s not really interested in global leadership we see a China from your analysis just there that’s going to be having its its reach for global leadership slipping further away what is this is this a world without a leader or is there a prospect that on the other side of the US presidential election we we may see America expressing interest in the concept of world leadership once again well yeah I mean in a classic sort of description of these things in the period after the fall of the Soviet Union 1991 we moved to a unipolar world let’s call that g1 the grip of one call the United States then we had an emerging literature in the first decade of this century around about the possibility of a g2 that is United States and China between them through the institutions of global governance like the g20 beginning to as it were manage the institutions of global governance or be it coming from different regions different systems different traditions then of course the geopolitics of all that began to erupt for various reasons but you know rather than is then becoming a new China dominated world or the resuscitation of the American order necessarily as a friend and colleague of mine in New York Ian Bremmer from Eurasia Griffiths described it we don’t end up with g2 or g1 we end up with g0 and that is a drift towards what I again described before is Anarchy could the Democrats if they win in November reconstitute this I actually believe they can Biden is often derided as being you know old and rambling and all the rest of it but he is likely to be smart enough to assemble a first-class international policy team but on the International economy and security and foreign policy enough of them are conscious enough of where the American drifting global leadership has got to and the China challenges got to – I think reconstitute this and there’s enough an intellectual awareness of the challenge the question is will I have the political capability of doing it which of course depends on do they win mm-hmm so what’s the outlook between lead for the relationship between China and the US post pandemic you’ve described it in an essay you wrote for Foreign Affairs a journal that I think you’ve described it as not Cold War 2.0 but cold war 1.5 what does that mean and what should we expect well if you look at the language around the Cold War and those of us old enough like Parcher you and I can actually remember the last Cold War we belong to the Paleolithic generation you can remember these things but you know I had a few characteristics one mutually assured destruction level of nukes to zero economic engagement three third country proxy wars and four basically an ideological cleavage now prior to the events of trovador prior to the trade

war you know sure there was an element of the nuclear competition between the two countries although the Chinese Arsenal is small by Soviet standards but it’s still capable of a second strike effect what we now have is through the beginnings of economic decoupling a removal of that economic ballast to the us-china relationship which is historically differentiated from the characteristics of the US Soviet relationship in the old Cold War and then you’ve got an emerging serious ideological competition not between communism and capitalism so much as between the authoritarian state versus the Democratic state third-country proxy war was not yet but have a look at the belt and road initiative and whether that gets progressively militarized in future open question so why do I pick on Cold War 1.5 is enough by way of trend lines to cause us to think that we’re entering into a new period which turns on its head the assumptions that we had about the us-china relationship from the time that done south being returned the leadership in the 870s and frankly rebooted china for the subsequent 40 years it’s at that sort of inflection point so one of the details that’s likely I mean this is detailed in that very big picture you just sketch but the trade deal between the US and China we shouldn’t expect that to be ratified and acted upon anytime soon in that case well it’s a really interesting complex question Peter because I was talking to my colleagues in New York about this just two days ago and my vice president of the Asia Policy Institute is the former deputy USTR Wendy Cutler so she follows this professionally she knows the entrails now her technical advice to me is that here we are four months into the year and at a mechanical level the Chinese say are in fact implementing the provision of the phase one trade deal now we don’t know yet whether all elements can be executed particularly the 200 billion dollar mandatory purchasing order of American goods from which by the Chinese which Trump insisted upon nor do we know the future the Phase two deal but as for that trade agreement so far frankly it’s being adhered to at a technical level so we might ask ourselves why is that the case I think it’s because she Jinping knows that China has massive economic challenge on these things on its hands the economy has been deeply damaged by the corona crisis and prior to that damage somewhat by the trade war and I think the previous position in Beijing at present is to try and restabilized the economic relationship because China’s not yet strong enough to sail alone remember 40 percent of Chinese GDP is till the traded sector of their economy so with this big picture you’re forecasting with a g0 in terms of leadership and anarchy as you’ve described in the global order how does this look to Australia and how does Australia survive in the midst of what you’ve described as an icky well the trend towards anarchy is the term I’ve used in the article I’ve just been Foreign Affairs magazine and it’s consistent with my language about Cold War 1.5 so what does it mean for third countries like ours I think you know the first thing that we in the People’s Republic of Australia but a workout joke in case anyone thinks something pro-communist is is that we’re not robinson crusoe here most significant countries in the world who who find themselves jammed in the us-china relationship are going through parallel dilemmas we might be as I’ve said before the first Western canary down the Chinese mineshaft in terms of this national experience but frankly there are a whole lot of others as well and not all of them Western officers the second thing is the dilemmas we face to be fair to mr. Morrison who is now the prime minister are now sharper than I faced but it was still sharp when I was Prime Minister he constantly were faced with decisions which were seen in Beijing as hostile to their interest and you may recall back then I was routinely attacked for failing to manage the Australia China relationship by being too hard line in pushing back against the Chinese but it is becoming sharper and that’s objectively the case therefore for Australian policy in the future my own judgment is to execute an appropriate level of balance for the future we’re going to have to a pick our disagreements with Beijing carefully to work out what is essential as opposed to non-essential that by way of national

policy agreements be where we do have different sets of interests of a significant nature with the Chinese do not sail alone but in fact construct effective coalition’s with other states but within the region and beyond so that we are not speaking with a single voice when Brian prosecute your other interests so okay so on those two points the first one being the sharpening of the confrontation we really with China now that China’s ambassador to Australia is threatened pretty substantial economic sanctions because of the Morrison quest for an international inquiry into the origins of the virus how does how does Morrison how does the country handle this you’ve said elsewhere that it would be pathetic to walk away now you’ve been critical of the way Morrison got into this but having got here you said he can’t walk away so looking to the future what other as he put it fights that he should pick and the ones he should leave alone and on your second theme which is that Australia isn’t walking alone and shouldn’t try to walk alone what are the like-minded countries or at least countries with shared interests which Australia most prospectively form partnerships yeah we’ll had two great sets of questions I think on the question of what constitutes a balanced relationship with Beijing in the future I think I said this something some of the time the launch of your quarterly essay in Parliament House in Canberra at the end of last year seems like an eternity ago but in my relationship with the Chinese leaders I was always very frank about two things number one Australia is an ally the United States they ain’t gonna change just get used to it you may not like it but there’s historical reasons for it and there are future reasons for it as well number two we’re a liberal democracy we believe in universal human rights guess what that’s not going to change either and I know you don’t like that but that’s just who we are number three however we have a whole bunch of bilateral economic interests which are mutually advantageous that we can prosecute a number for there are institutional arrangements in global governance through the g20 and other institutions where we can and should collaborate that it’s climate change dare I say pandemic management and dare I said also future global financial management as the size of the Chinese economy continues to be a bigger footprint so that’s my kind of approach to how you would have a framework within which to construct a balanced arrangement and be absolutely clear with the Chinese that there are four principles and don’t work walk away from them on the second point which is who are our natural allies apart from our friends across the Tasman the bottom line is this I think there is a group of countries within the g20 who wish to sustain and enhance the institutions of global governance and do so in a manner which is consistent with the sorts of universal values and common interests which we in Australia would share with them who might they be among the Europeans I would point to significant countries like Germany France the United Kingdom depending on which way Boris wants to take the UK even Brussels itself in our part of the world the South Koreans also the the Japanese I would say also the Singaporeans and Indonesians though the Singaporeans are not members of the g20 India question mark because it’s never historically exhibited a huge interest in the institutions of global governance but then throw in the Canadians as well as in Latin America the Mexicans and South Africans and in the continent and I think you start to have a critical mass of interests across multiple jurisdictions where you can get behind what I described as the necessary support multilaterally to keep the institutions of global governance functioning problem we’ve got close to the entire geni g20 membership there I think except notably in exclude Saudi Arabia and China may be well but your question was how do you establish a critical mass of as it were liberal democracies from multiple in my case multiple geographies and Muslim states as well like Indonesia around this critical central question of how do we triage the essential elements of the global rules-based system and the institutions which underpin both the UN w-h-o WTO UNHCR and the rest not to mention what have at the level of financial collaboration

through the financial stability boards of global financial markets you get those countries behind that collectively they’ve got some critical mass but they’ve got to need to start to act that way and not as just a a gaggle of ten separate press statements which is partly my criticism of Morrison’s half-baked idea about the independent global Inquirer if you’re serious about it Scotty from marketing get on the phone I used to do this all the time bring your mates in the g20 and say listen cover how about you come onboard with us if we do this that way when you put out your proposal you’ve got a critical mass behind it instead this was a Morrison thought-bubble hastily cobbled together then as an idea and then a scramble to try and get some international support I used that as just a case study well we could go all day but I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got time for Kevin thanks for joining us and we’ll let you return of sheltering in place in sunny Brisbane all on may the day proved to be dangerous and exciting for all of you not too dangerous thanks Kevin – all the best thanks Peter well we can go from there discussing some of the dangerous ideas that kevin has put to us and web hiding from the dangerous reality outside let me introduce to start with our panel we’re privileged to have an expert eminent panel of three to join us starting with yard chow Wang Yao chow is a China researcher at the Human Rights Watch in New York where she’s coming to us live welcome Yatta Yatta unlike me has a proper qualification in international relations she has a master’s degree from George Washington University and next we had a Vicki – Vicki is a researcher for the assess rallyin strategic Policy Institute and in particular it’s cyber Policy Center Vicki worked as a journalist for The New York Times in Sydney she’s also worked for the ABC where her fields included the Chinese diaspora communities she’s researched a range of China related subjects including the one belt one Road initiative welcome Vicki and composing we have Jason yet Stanley Jason is also joining us from Sydney where I’m happy to be sharing the same warm morning Jason is a lawyer who is currently the chairman of the investment group Vantage Asia he is also managing director of corporate advisory firm y sa why I say specialises in complex cross-border china-related merger and acquisition and capital rates jason has a list of entanglements and commitments longer than my arm so I’m not going to try to to to go all the way to the end of the list but he is a fellow of Sydney University Senate he is also involved Sydney Committee for the Australian Chamber Orchestra and he’s a young global leader of the World Economic Forum I think that’s enough to introduce you Jason Jason welcome I’m going to start asking the first question for a panel – yo Chou yeah ah we heard kevin rudd they’re projecting that it would be a very damaged America that emerges from this pandemic he also said that this was an America that was going to be accelerating into its geopolitical confrontation with China from where you sit in New York do you see a damaged America emerging from this do you see a turbocharging of its confrontation with China I think so because I mean we have all seen on the news of the two sides accusing each other for bring a virus so I think you know from being in the US this is very clear and there were already a lot of tension and it was already the relations are already deteriorating and this has been exacerbated by the virus and I think you know Donald Trump yes using China his plane in China in order to shift you know the blame on himself so they have the fear of the Wuhan lab and all that stuff which you know has been questioned and the rhetoric you know I follow the US government’s all kinds of Twitter accounts and it has been it’s very clear that the rhetoric is has become more and more you know harsh on

China so I absolutely think this is the deterioration that relation will continue after the pandemic well thank you Kevin also foresaw a damaged China emerging from the pandemic Viki how do you see that yes I I think that will absolutely be the case I think right now what China has been trying to do is you know it has largely gotten the pandemic situation under control and and is trying to shake off the blame it’s trying to you know claim that you know the virus didn’t originate from China is trying to say chyna shouldn’t be held responsible for it and is trying to shift the narrative to say that you know China is actually acting as a global leader during this pandemic it’s actually trying to take you know what what would be a disaster if your disaster for China as an opportunity to expand its influence and to exert exert its influence around the world and that you know includes sending care packages to developing countries and also develop countries like you know Italy but the results so far have been really mixed you know these soft diplomacy soft power diplomacy efforts have not entirely been welcomed around the world you know there are accusations of faulty equipments there are spats between for example Thailand and China over other issues that just that just let’s say didn’t paint China or the Chinese netizens and the Chinese media in the in a positive light that sort of canceled out whatever effort China has been put into 8 and also with the damage the economy it’s it’s very I would I would I would argue it’s it’s it’s almost impossible China would come out of this with a victory that it hopes Jason the picture that we saw Kevin sketch was one of a trend to glow panicky and no leadership he called it g0 how do you see a country like Australia Jason navigating a world trending to anarchy and Kevin was very confident that one of the anchors of Australian policy during this would be the alliance with the u.s do you think that’s right do you think that the Alliance can withstand the Trump administration and what’s to come yeah good questions Peter I think one of the most salient things coming from Kevin’s presentation was this point about the failure of superpower leadership really I mean he was basically saying neither than the u.s nor China really covered themselves in glory over this exercise and it’s um it’s kind of disappointing you know from the perspective of Australians these are the superpowers we look to the superpowers for global leadership and you know it’s not quite Independence Day it’s not quite an alien invasion coming down but if it doesn’t take a global pandemic with hundreds of thousands of deaths to bring the world together to cooperate one really wonders what will and so that’s the you know that’s the context and you know what does Australia do in this in this context I think that you know it’s often framed in terms of you know we need to choose the materials you wear so we do each goods China I don’t think that’s particularly helpful I think if we look at this big strategic rivalry between you know the US and China arm as a major challenge not just in terms of how we handle this pandemic but as Kevin was alluding to to international peace and security you know these are the foundations that have kept us relatively the world relatively free of mass armed conflict at least for since the Second World War and as this stuff unravels it leaves us in really uncharted waters thus g0 and-and-and an anarchy and no I know today’s the 5070 fifth anniversary of VE Day reminds us of what we what the objectives should be here to the to your question about the u.s. alliance but I think this is not specifically a covert 19 thing I think that there were pressures around that beforehand from the erratic sort of behavior of

President Trump and you know I think as somebody once said I don’t think it’s a matter of Australia stepping back or choosing to leave the Alliance I think it’s more whether the United States chooses to back away from the Alliance hmm yeah how Human Rights is is your field what’s the outlook do you think for human rights in China during and after this pandemic I mean you follow this closely most of us don’t has there been any change in Xi Jinping’s policy on domestic human rights and what do you think the future holds and if I can just broaden the question out for you while you’re at it yeah are beyond human rights in China the state of democracy I mean China is portraying its response to the pandemic as a demonstration of a superior model of governance that democracy is a failing system of governance that authoritarianism a la China is the way of the future do you think democracy itself will suffer in that sort of accelerating contest that Kevin Rudd has sketched for us human rights in China has been deteriorating for the past ten years I would say you know around Beijing over at the time and the deterioration has accelerated since Xi Jinping came to power I mean the you know from this pandemic something I’m very clear the censorship that is going on the surveillance that is going on and the harassment and detention or people who try to criticize the government that is going on all those things have been going on before and I think they are going to keep those you know tomorrow’s issues are going to continue to deteriorate in terms of you know the Chinese government’s narrative of you know our system our authoritarian way of doing things is D is superior at beating the virus my answer to that is that first we don’t know actually what happened happening China what’s happening in China the governor said ‘you know there are about 3,500 people died in Wuhan but many people estimated it you know by looking at how many people were criminate at a funeral homes the number could be you know 10 times higher so we don’t know you know that what actually happened because of the censorship you know anybody who said all the sufferings all the you know the bad stories we hear on internet by the meed yeah just a tip on iceberg so there are a lot of stuff we just don’t know so I wouldn’t say you know the Chinese government has successfully contained the virus because there’s just so many things we don’t know but I think what has been unfortunately successful here’s how the Chinese propaganda censorship a lot of people inside China actually believed you know through because of the commies party’s leadership you know we made it a very hard and but necessary sacrifices do you know we have beaten the virus so but you know I’ve been talking to people in the past several weeks just a sense of pride in the country this sense of you know we have sacrificed so we have achieved something that you know is we have come out of a very sad situation victoriously this is very I think it’s quite shared among the population so Cammarata was saying you know China might come out of this not you know victoriously because of other you know other issues that they’re having but I think domestically the Chinese Communist Party has saw the story quite well but I agree with you know a few key that you know I don’t I don’t think you know internationally speaking and they have they may be warned you know after of these Kobe at night evening Vicki one of the one of your aspects that I failed to mention in the introduction is that you also do a sideline in very good sideline in comedy I won’t ask you to critique Kevin Rudd’s attempts at comedy but I will ask you if you could for us to respond to his concept that Australia has to be careful about the fights it picks with China to to work out which fights really matter and which don’t

so two parts to that please looking first is the Scott Morrison decision to pursue an international independent inquiry into the origins and responses to the virus a fight that Australia should be picking and what what are the issues that you would say are the priorities for Australia to continue its confrontations or to step up new ones with China and one of the ones that Australia really should try to leave alone thank you Peter and I won’t spent too much time critiquing Mr Rudd’s comedy skills on I do i do largely agree with him that you know it is vibe and it is determined at how we are in an alliance with the United States all have strategic competitions with China so that is you know very much about reality on four by now um in terms of which those we’re gonna pick the Liana it was we have always been trying to carefully track this so-called middle path right and you know we’re we’re trying to get that pick some battles and leave some and get some economic gains and you know compromise on some fronts but um this is where I would love to all to offer a very dangerous idea and that is is the middle path first rail yeah and it’s dealing with China and crop and at times it’s just so well far under it’s just almost and so they did it Australia it does need to place its ethics and values at the forefront of its decision-making on China and move now to lessen out economic dependency on this to be honest rogue state I think that is a main battle we need to pick and this just reminds me of you know Malcolm Turnbull said in his book which I read and did not pirate that the Australian business community will will never support a government that takes a hotter line in China because their economic fortune are too closely tied to Chinese interests and so so any Australian leader who takes the decisive step to choose integrity over possible possible prosperity will need to be very courageous to do that and you know that the truth is everyone knows deep down that this is the right thing to do and you know there are several steps to lessen our economic dependency on China but there’s one thing I will mention um is that we’re very fearful of China’s and coercive diplomacy tactics you know they have threatened to cut down Australia’s export of wine and beef and I or and all that but we really have to be mindful um you know my think tanks Australian strategic Policy Institute we’ve been doing this ongoing research on coercive diplomacy of China and we have recorded more than 200 cases of these you know little tricks all over the world and it’s yet to be published but you know when people read it they will be surprised how many of these threats and have actually been materialized a lot of these are just to be honest bluff and it’s key like mr rat said that we democracies do form you know this critical mass in terms of economic in terms of tariffs in terms of import-export we have to form this alliance to sort of like counter these coercive diplomacy tactics and that sort of battles as well as you know and then dependence inquiry into kovat are equally important and uncritical for for the not for just for now but for the future because you know when we’re looking back when 20 years 30 years from now we’re looking at rally ax and we’re asking ourselves that would do the right thing at the right time that we side with a fascist state that with sides with an imperialist power you know we’ve had so many shameful episodes in the history of this country and we don’t need more of them we’re running very short on time but if I could ask you Jason briefly please a two-part question do you think that the scenario for Australia the Figge sketched is viable that Australia has the political will and has the ability to step away from its heavy train dependence on China or do you think our sovereignty is already

hostage to China’s economic interests in the second part I know this is a lot back into a one minute answer Jason but how do you see the Australian Chinese community coping with this sort of a sort of precious is it getting squeezed and do we need to do more to try and protect our own citizens it’s a big question to ask to answer in one minute let me be really quick I think we can balance our economic and our sovereignty interests bearing in mind that the strength of our economy actually goes to our sovereignty if our economy goes completely pear-shaped and is destroyed it doesn’t really help our national security and it doesn’t really serve our sovereignty so our economic interest is a key part of our national sovereignty arguing we have to be smart about that and we have to be realistic about that while standing up for our values going to I guess Chinese Australians here as well it’s a critical part of standing up for our values whatever people think about the Chinese Communist Party and our relationship with China I would urge everybody not to take that out on Chinese Australians or people of Chinese heritage who live in Australia because if we start doing that we start undermining the values that Vicki was talking about and the values that make Australia strong well we’ve had done wall-to-wall dangerous ideas there guys we’re out of time unfortunately because you’re a fascinating group and I’d love to keep going but time won’t allow so please just let me thank behalf of all the audience panelists Viki Xiu we’ve also got yeah sorry Jason yes Emily and Yauch our Wang many thanks time Josiah Diaz and Foley digital is presented by the epic Center our purpose is to bring ethics to the center of everyday life through public experiences education thought leadership advocacy consulting and leadership programs as a nonprofit organization every single dollar is invested in pursuit of this purpose thanks to our donors and partners who helped to make our programs happen and you can donate by the website thank you