The Honorable Kevin Rudd: C.V. Starr Lecture


15 April 2015 – New York, NY


I pride myself in being a friend of America.

I equally pride myself in being a friend of China.

And thus it has been throughout my adult life.

From the time I first picked up a calligraphic brush more than a third of a century ago to draw, with no small sense of wonder, and an even greater sense of trepidation, my first Chinese character.

Just as, at the same university, and in the very same year, I was first intoxicated with the sheer poetry, cadence and power of Lincoln’s address on the field at Gettysburg – reflecting as we do this day, on the sesqui-centenary of his untimely death.

These two great civilizations, China and America, have achieved much.

One over the span of 4000 years.

The other over some 400 years.

They have both given much to humanity.

They have more still to give.

And far better they make this contribution together.

For these reasons, and despite the urgings of some, I find no inherent contradiction between these two propositions: of being a friend of China, and of being a friend of America.

Complexity yes.

But contradiction no.

In fact in this turbulent 21st century, it is far better we have more who are friends of both, rather than less.

For in the history of international relations, I have rarely encountered two countries and civilizations as utterly fascinated in one another, yet as utterly non-comprehending of one another, as China and the United States.

As I read the history of CV Starr, I see something of a kindred spirit from a century now long past.

Yet in Starr’s case, he embraced these two countries, China and America, well before it was ever remotely fashionable, or even acceptable, to do so.

Starr’s China was the China of nearly a century ago, when the early Chinese Republic had not long replaced a Chinese empire older than Rome’s.

When Starr established AIU, Asiatic Insurance Underwriters, in 1919, the Paris Peace Conference had just decided to give Germany’s former colonies in China, not to the fledgling Chinese republic, but to the Empire of Japan.

This was also the year that saw the birth of the May the Fourth Movement that was to transform classical China into modern China.

And a movement which, in part, within the next few years was to give rise to the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party, which continues to govern China to this day.

Starr therefore arrived in China to start a business in one the most significant periods in modern Chinese history.

He also reminds us that, despite the long shadows of history and geopolitics, individual people like Cornelius Vander Starr can, and did, make a mark on the life of peoples and nations.

He spoke of a “Chinese century” well before any of us ever thought of the term, let alone conceive of the reality.

He hired Chinese managers when this practice was almost unheard of.

He treated his Asian and Chinese friends and colleagues with deep respect and even deference, at a time when the theory of racial superiority was still the prevailing western orthodoxy.

He moved comfortably across cultures and classes.

He saw no nationalities, nor races – only ordinary men and women.

He also spoke truth to power, living through Japan’s brutal occupation of China.

At a time when most Westerners were silent, Starr opposed Japanese propaganda through his own Chinese-language newspaper.

This cost him dearly.

His publication’s office was bombed in 1939, and its editor assassinated in a café.

CV Starr also genuinely cared for people.

During the Chinese civil war, Starr airlifted his staff and their families 1,000 miles to Hong Kong, and out of the jaws of death.

And all without missing a day of work, as a good captain of industry would.

Every now and then, there are giants who live among us.

Individuals confident enough in the ethical and practical imperatives of their mission to paint the future with bold brushstrokes.

Not minor dabbling around the edges.

A capacity for courage, creativity, enterprise and compassion – to build new institutions from nothing but the power of their imagination, and the singularity of their purpose.

We are in need of such women and men once again today.

In an age when the imperative of seeing underlying commonalities, rather than focusing exclusively on insuperable polarities, is greater than ever before.

For the simple reason that if we have the eyes to see, and the ears to hear, the truth is the challenges we now confront as a society of nations together, are far greater than the challenges our individual nations confront in their dealings with each other.

Global, violent terrorism is a threat to all nations, including China and America together.

Global pandemic diseases are a threat to all nations, including China and America together.

Global greenhouse gas emissions capable of producing irreversible climate change are a threat to all nations, including China and America together.

That is why we need a chorus of voices that remind us of the age-old truth that the things that divide us, are much smaller in the global scheme of things, than the things that should now unite us.

And nowhere is this truer than in the future of US-China relations.

This last 12 months, I have been working away at the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School, on how we could possibly craft a common future for America and China.

And my remarks tonight are drawn in substantial part from the summary report of my endeavors which I am also releasing this evening here in New York.

My purpose is whether, despite the formidable differences between the two, we can construct a common strategic narrative for these two great countries

One that does not end, once again, in the sorry saga of conflict and war, as we have seen so often in the past, when rising great powers have encountered established great powers throughout history.

But instead a future where there is sufficient commonality of values, interests and purpose to preserve the peace, enhance prosperity, while also protecting the planet.

This is not easy.

It is hard.

But I do not believe the histories of nations, and their dealings with each other, are somehow written in the stars.

The future of US-China relations is not the subject of some determinist view of history.

It has been shaped, and will be shaped, for good or for ill, by the policy decisions of leaders, and the perceptions on which these policy decisions are based.

When China’s GDP, after decades of rapid economic growth, and despite recent slowing, eventually surpasses that of the United States over the next decade, it will be the first time since George III, that a non-Western, non-English-speaking, non-liberal democratic state will become the largest economy in the world.

This will reflect a profound shift in the center of global geo-economic gravity.

And with this shift in economic power there also comes inevitably a shift in political power.

Notwithstanding this gradual shift in the global distribution of economic power, over the course of the same decade the United States will nonetheless remain the dominant regional and global military power, and by a massive margin.

While China’s increasing defense spending will continue to close the gap, there is no serious prospect of it reaching military parity with the U.S. before mid-century, if at all.

China, like the rest of the world, will remain justifiably mindful of America’s overwhelming military power.

This is a core assumption in Chinese strategic thinking.

We are, therefore, seeing the emergence of an asymmetric world in which the fulcrums of economic and military power are no longer co-located, but, in fact, are beginning to diverge significantly.

Political power, through the agency of foreign policy, sits uncomfortably somewhere in between.

As a result, in the absence of sophisticated diplomacy, over the coming decade we are likely to see more differences emerge between Washington and Beijing, rather than fewer.

The consequences of this emerging strategic and economic asymmetry in the U.S.-China relationship will first manifest themselves in the Asia-Pacific region.

As Robert Kaplan has reminded us recently, geography does indeed matter.

It is in this region that the U.S. and China experience direct contact through their territorial proximity (Guam) and the deployment of their various national military, naval and air assets.

This is compounded by: the presence of both Chinese and U.S. allies (North Korea in China’s case; Japan, the ROK, the Philippines, Thailand and Australia in the case of the U.S.); an even broader set of non-alliance military partnerships, principally with the U.S.; and a vast array of contested territorial claims between regional states, including three American allies, and China.

Yet, at the same time, it is a region in which China is now a significantly more important trading partner than the U.S. for every country in Asia, including every single American military ally and strategic partner.

China is also becoming an increasingly important investment partner.

To avoid the longer-term bifurcation of the region into different camps, the challenge for Asia is to craft a common institutional future for an increasingly divergent region – a region in which pan-regional institutional structures can at present best be described as “thin.”

This shifting balance of economic power is also beginning to be seen globally, where China’s economic presence in Africa, Latin America and Europe also challenges the long-standing economic primacy of the United States.

China’s growing global economic and political role will also begin to reshape international norms, rules and institutions.

It will reverberate across geopolitics, global trade, investment, capital flows, reserve currency status, climate change, other environmental challenges and global people movements.

And it will also influence the great questions of war and peace in the decades ahead.

The central question for all of us is whether these changes in the regional and global distribution of power can occur peacefully, in a manner which preserves the stability and prosperity of Asia, while preserving the underlying values and institutional framework of the post-war order.

In answering these questions, we must ask ourselves the following:

  • Given that economic strength is the foundation of national power, is China’s economic rise sustainable over the decade ahead, or is it likely to falter?
  • If it is sustainable, will China deploy its newfound power differently under the leadership of Xi Jinping than under his predecessors?
  • Under Xi Jinping, what are China’s underlying strategic perceptions of future U.S. political, economic and military power, including Beijing’s conclusions about Washington’s “grand strategy” toward China?
  • What is the emerging American perception of Chinese strategy under Xi Jinping, including Washington’s responses to Beijing’s conclusions about U.S. strategy?
  • What is the level of risk of China, the United States and/or its allies ending up in armed conflict, either by accident or design, in the decade ahead?
  • How is China’s expanding political, foreign policy and economic influence likely to shape the future of the regional and global order, and will this be acceptable or inimical to U.S. interests?
  • Finally, is it possible to develop a common strategic narrative for both China and the United States that helps minimize the risk of conflict, and maximize the possibility of constructing a common order? If so, what are the outlines of this order?

These questions are obviously riddled with complexity.

But the task of those of us sufficiently presumptuous to advise policy makers is to try to reduce the complex to the simple, or at least render the impossible as least digestible.

Therefore, each of the answers below inevitably involves “on balance” judgments that will be the subject of criticism from either area specialists on the one hand, or analysts who concentrate on individual policy domains, from strategic studies and macroeconomics, to the sociology of religion, on the other.

My argument, however, is that policy makers today suffer not from a deficit of analysis, but rather a deficit of synthesis when trying to anticipate or respond to the mega-changes and challenges of our day.

The rise of China is a classic case in point.

Sustainability of Chinese Economic Model

On the sustainability of Chinese economic growth as the continuing basis of Chinese national power, on balance we should assume a Chinese growth rate in the medium to medium-high range (i.e. in excess of 6 percent) as probable for the period under review.

This takes into account both official and unofficial statistics on the recent slowing of the rate.

It also takes into account lower levels of global demand for Chinese exports, high levels of domestic debt, the beginning of a demographically driven shrinking in the labor force, continued high levels of domestic savings, at best modest levels of household consumption, an expanding private sector still constrained by state-owned monoliths, and a growing environmental crisis.

But it also takes into account the vast battery of Chinese policy responses to each of these and does not assume that these are by definition destined to fail.

Furthermore, if China’s growth rate begins to falter, China has sufficient fiscal and monetary policy capacity to intervene to ensure the growth rate remains above 6 percent, which is broadly the number policy makers deem to be necessary to maintain social stability.

For these reasons, and others concerning the structure of Chinese politics, I explicitly reject the “China collapse” thesis recently advanced by David Shambaugh.

It would also be imprudent in the extreme for America’s China policy to be based on an implicit (and sometimes explicit) policy assumption that China will either economically stagnate or politically implode because of underlying contradictions in its overall political economy.

This would amount to a triumph of hope over cold, hard analysis.

How different is Xi Jinping

If the Chinese Economic Model is sustainable, and Chinese aggregate national power likely to increase, then how will China act under the new leadership of Xi Jinping?

Three concepts define how Xi Jinping’s leadership differs from that of his predecessors:

  • his personal authority;
  • his deep sense of national mission;
  • and an even deeper sense of urgency.

Xi’s audacious leadership style sets him apart from the modern Chinese norm.

Both in personality and policy, he represents one part continuity and two parts change.

Xi is the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng (Deng Xiaoping 邓小平), and possibly since Mao (Mao Zedong 毛泽东).

Whereas his predecessors believed in, and by and large practiced, the principle of collective leadership, Xi Jinping is infinitely more primus than he isprimus inter pares.

As a Party blue blood, he also exudes a self-confidence that comes from someone utterly comfortable with the exercise of political power.

His core, animating vision centers on his concept of the “China Dream” (zhongguomeng 中国梦) which in turn has two objectives:

  • to achieve a “moderately well-off China” (xiaokang shehui 小康社会) by 2021 when the Party celebrates its centenary;
  • and “a rich and powerful” (fuqiang 富强) China by 2049 on the centenary of the People’s Republic.

Realizing the China Dream, according to Xi, requires a second phase of transformative economic reform.

He sees no contradiction in prosecuting deeper market reforms to achieve his national objectives, while implementing new restrictions on individual political freedom.

In fact, he sees this as the essence of “the China Model” (zhongguo moshi 中国模式) in contrast to the liberal democratic capitalism of the West which he describes as totally unsuited to China.

Xi Jinping’s sense of personal and national urgency is animated by a formidable, Confucian work ethic, which he also expects of his Party colleagues and policy advisors.

He is results-driven.

He is frustrated by the interminable processes of the Chinese bureaucracy, and its predisposition for formulaic responses to real policy challenges.

He is very much a man in a hurry.

For these several reasons, Xi, unlike his predecessor, has the personal authority and policy flexibility to be a potentially dynamic interlocutor with the United States, albeit always within the framework of his nationalist vision for China’s future, and his definitive conclusions concerning the continuing role of China’s one-party state.

Chinese Perceptions of the United States

If China has a formidable new leader, and one which the U.S. can strategically engage, it is critical to understand the underlining strategic perceptions that Chinese policy elites have towards the United States.

The current relationship between the United States and China has been characterized privately by one Chinese interlocutor as one condemned to a future of “Mutually Assured Misperception.”

There is considerable truth to this, as each side engages in various forms of mirror imaging of the other.

One senior Chinese interlocutor said during the preparation of my report:

The problem is the United States believes that China will simply adopt the same hegemonic thinking that the United States has done historically, as seen under the Monroe Doctrine and the multiple invasions of neighboring states in the Western Hemisphere that followed. Since the Second World War, there has barely been a day when the United States has not been engaged in a foreign war. As a result, the United States believes that China will behave in the same way. And this conclusion forms the basis of a series of recent policies towards China.

Americans offer their own variations on the same theme concerning Chinese mirror imaging.

Nonetheless, Chinese leaders have begun to form a worrying consensus on what they believe to be the core elements of U.S. strategy towards China, despite Washington’s protestations to the contrary.

These are reflected in the following five-point consensus circulated among the Chinese leadership during 2014, summarizing internal conclusions about U.S. strategic intentions:

  • To isolate China;
  • To contain China;
  • To diminish China;
  • To internally divide China; and
  • To sabotage China’s leadership.

While these conclusions sound strange to a Western audience, they nonetheless derive from a Chinese conclusion that the United States has not, and never will, accept the fundamental political legitimacy of the Chinese administration because it is not a liberal democracy.

They are also based on a deeply held, deeply “realist” Chinese conclusion that the U.S. will never willingly concede its status as the pre-eminent regional and global power, and will do everything within its power to retain that position.

In Beijing, this assumption permeates perceptions of nearly all aspects of U.S. policy:

  • from campaigns on human rights,
  • political activism in Hong Kong,
  • arms sales to Taiwan,
  • and America’s failure to condemn terrorist attacks by Xinjiang separatists,
  • to support for Falungong and the Dalai Lama.

What about American Strategic Perceptions of China

American strategic perceptions and responses to Xi Jinping’s China are in a period of transition, just as China itself is now in transition.

During times of transition, therefore, there is often a risk of radically underestimating or over-dramatizing the significance of the profound changes underway.

Rising China is no longer “business as usual” for America. But neither, for the decade ahead, is this new China becoming a major direct military threat to U.S. interests.

Instead, the U.S. sees China as actively competing for political, diplomatic and security policy space in Asia at America’s expense; to the extent that China is increasingly seen as pursuing a long-term policy aimed at pushing the United States out of Asia altogether with a view to establishing its own sphere of strategic influence across the region over time.

What are the Possibilities of Arm-conflict between the U.S. and China

So given the generally negative strategic perceptions that China has of the U.S., and the U.S. has of China, what are the prospects for any forms of armed conflicts between the two in the decade ahead?

Xi Jinping is a nationalist.

And China, both the U.S. and China’s neighbors have concluded, is displaying newfound assertiveness in pursuing its hard security interests in the region.

But there is, nonetheless, a very low risk of any form of direct conflict involving the armed forces of China and the U.S. over the next decade.

It is not in the national interests of either country for any such conflict to occur; and it would be disastrous for both, not to mention for the rest of the world.

Despite the deep difficulties in the relationship, no Cold War standoff between them yet exists, only a strategic chill.

In fact, there is a high level of economic inter-dependency in the relationship, which some international relations scholars think puts a fundamental brake on the possibility of any open hostilities.

Although it should be noted the U.S. is no longer as important to the Chinese economy as it once was.

However, armed conflict could feasibly arise through one of two scenarios:

  • Either an accidental collision between U.S. and Chinese aircraft or naval vessels followed by a badly managed crisis; or
  • Through a collision (accidental or deliberate) between Chinese military assets and those of a regional U.S. ally, most obviously Japan or the Philippines.

Nonetheless, Xi Jinping has no interest in triggering armed conflict with the U.S., a nightmare scenario that would fundamentally undermine China’s economic rise.

Furthermore, there are few, if any, credible military scenarios in the immediate period ahead in which China could militarily prevail in a direct conflict with the U.S.

This explains Xi’s determination to oversee the professionalization and modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a credible, war-fighting and war-winning machine.

Xi Jinping is an intelligent consumer of strategic literature and would have concluded that risking any premature military engagement with the U.S. would be foolish.

Traditional Chinese strategic thinking is unequivocal in its advice not to engage an enemy unless you are in a position of overwhelming strength.

Under Xi, the ultimate purpose of China’s military expansion and modernization is not to inflict defeat on the U.S., but to deter the U.S. Navy from intervening in China’s immediate periphery by creating sufficient doubt in the minds of American strategists as to their ability to prevail.

For these reasons, the likelihood of U.S.-China conflict in the medium to long term remains remote.

This is why Xi Jinping is more attracted to the idea of expanding China’s regional and global footprint by economic and political means.

This is where he will likely direct China’s diplomatic activism over the decade ahead.

Chinese political, economic and foreign policy influence in Asia will continue to grow significantly, while China will also become a more active participant in the reform of the global rules-based order.

As noted above, a core geopolitical fact emerging is that we are now seeing the rise of what Evan Feigenbaum has described as “two Asias”:

  • an “economic Asia” that is increasingly dominated by China;
  • and a “security Asia” that remains dominated by the United States.

China is now a bigger trading partner with every country in Asia than the United States.

The U.S. is either an ally or strategic partner of the bulk of maritime Asia.

By contrast, China’s only strategic “ally” is North Korea, which has become a greater strategic liability than an asset.

If strategic tensions drove the U.S. and China into adversarial postures, regional states would face increasingly irresistible pressure to make a zero sum strategic choice between the two.

China continues to build on its economic strength in the wider region through its recent institutional innovation.

While the BRICS Bank, or the New Development Bank (NDB), has a global mandate, the AIIB has an exclusively regional focus.

As for the Silk Road Fund, the bulk of its investment will focus on Southeast, South and Central Asia.

Concurrently, many regional states are strengthening their security ties with the U.S., compelled by their long-term strategic anxieties over an increasingly powerful China.

Strategic polarization across Asia is therefore likely to intensify in the future.

There are different approaches to regional architecture and mechanisms to deal with Asian security challenges.

The U.S. and the West are, at best, peripherally aware of China’s preferred institutional arrangements for the region as reflected in Xi Jinping’s “Asian Security Concept” (Yatai anquanguan 亚太安全观).

Delivered at the May 2014 Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Xi outlined an integrated concept of “common security,” “comprehensive security,” and “cooperative security” for the entire region. Provocatively, however, Xi made plain that his “Asian Security Concept” did not include the United States:

When it comes to Asian Affairs, they should fundamentally be handled by the people of Asia; when it comes to the problems of Asia, these should be fundamentally managed by the people of Asia; when it comes to the security of the Asia, it should be upheld by the people of Asia. The people of Asia are capable and wise enough to strengthen cooperation among themselves, in order to achieve the peace and stability of Asia.


The time is ripe to consider alternative institutional approaches that integrate both China and the U.S. into a common regional arrangement, and with a mandate to tackle both security and economic challenges.

If competing structures are established, these will exacerbate regional division.

Furthermore, any explicit attempt to exclude the U.S. from the regional security architecture is more likely to strengthen existing U.S. military alliances, rather than weaken them.

Rather than playing an institutional tug-of-war, it would be far more constructive for the U.S. and China to join hands in building pan-regional institutional arrangements.

This will not solve all regional security challenges.

But it will help to manage, and reduce, them over time.

Confidence-building measures could cascade into a more transparent security culture and, in time, a more secure Asia.

But this can only happen if both powers decide to invest common capital into a common regional institution.

Otherwise, we really do find ourselves in the world of the “zero sum game.”

Constructive Realism for a Common Purpose: Toward a common strategic narrative for U.S.-China relations.

Before détente, during the latter period of the Cold War, a joint narrative between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was not possible.

Both sides were not only ideological enemies. They were declared military enemies.

They fought proxy wars.

And they were in a permanent state of readiness to go to war directly, and in extremis, to destroy one another in a nuclear exchange.

Over time, however, the U.S. and the Soviet Union did develop basic protocols to avoid crises and unintended confrontation.

By contrast, despite the difficulties, the U.S.-China relationship remains in decidedly positive territory. Since 1972, U.S.-China relations have remained more functional than those between the U.S. and the Soviet Union ever were, and have never escalated to a comparable level of hostility.

As noted above, both China and the United States have private and semi-public strategic narratives about each other.

But as yet they do not have a shared strategic narrative between each other.

Such a common strategic narrative for U.S.-China relations may be difficult, but it is certainly not impossible.

And given the stakes involved for the future, it is increasingly necessary.

A common strategic framework for U.S.-China relations would offer many advantages.

  • First, in Washington, it would help provide strategic direction to Government agencies competing for policy attention and space, as well as those multiple agencies engaged in aspects of the China relationship but not on a daily basis, thereby helping to provide policy coherence in engaging on an inter-agency basis, as well as with Chinese interlocutors;
  • Second, in Beijing it would go beyond that because of the more hierarchical nature of the political and bureaucratic decision-making process, providing direction to the system at large; and
  • Third, for both powers, a coherent strategic framework would also inject additional positive ingredients: a common determination to manage significant differences effectively in order to avoid unnecessary confrontation; a common commitment to collaborate in difficult policy areas with a view to resolving them; and a common sense of purpose to build political capital and strategic trust over time.

For these reasons, the ideational content of a common strategic framework for the relationship should be:

  • “realist” about those areas of the relationship which are not possible to resolve within the foreseeable future;
  • “constructive” about those areas that could be resolved with high-level political effort at the bilateral, regional and global levels;
  • and guided by a “common purpose” to build strategic trust, step by step, over time, not based on declaratory statements, but instead on common action in resolving common problems.

 Defining realism in the relationship

What are the realistic factors in the China-U.S. relationship?

A healthy exercise to be conducted between Beijing and Washington would be to clarify the contents of such a list, in order to first agree on exactlywhat they disagree on. This list is therefore purely indicative:

  • Taiwan, including future American arms sales;
  • Conflicting claims between China and Japan in the East China Sea;
  • Conflicting claims between China and other claimant states in the South China Sea;
  • The retention of U.S. alliances in Asia;
  • China’s military modernization and mutual surveillance of each other’s capabilities;
  • Acceptance of the legitimacy of the Chinese political system as a matter for the Chinese people to resolve; and
  • The management of bilateral, Non-Governmental Organization-based (NGO) and UN multilateral disagreements on human rights and basic freedoms, including Internet regulation.

However, these deep “realist” elements of the relationship should be matched by “constructive” engagement between the U.S. and China in difficult areas of their bilateral, regional and global relationship where true progress is possible.

Otherwise, there is a danger that unalloyed strategic “realism” will suffocate the relationship altogether.

Or worse.

Given the generally bleak assumptions about each other’s ultimate strategic intentions, there is the perennial risk of “hyper-realism” becoming a form of self-fulfilling prophecy, resulting in crisis, conflict or even war.

I argue that the constructive element of the relationship should be advanced at bilateral, regional, and global levels.

These are outlined in considerable details in the report I am releasing on U.S.-China relations under Xi Jinping.

Bilaterally, I propose five concrete measures, including the rapid conclusion of the US-China bilateral investment treaty.

Regionally, I also propose five measures, including a medium-term proposal to transform the EAS to APC.

Globally, I propose an even larger number of cooperative endeavors between China and the U.S., most particular, the intensification of their collaboration on climate change, also to include India, in the lead up to the Paris UNCCC in December.

Toward a common strategic purpose between China and the U.S.

Both the realist and constructive dimensions of this proposed framework for U.S.-China relations are designed to be dynamic, not static.

As political space begins to open up in the relationship over time, as a result of progress in any of the collaborative diplomatic and economic initiatives listed above, accrued political capital should be deployed to deal with new challenges arising from developments in the international community.

It should also be deployed to deal with some of the older, more “realist” problems endemic to the bilateral relationship that had hitherto been seen as too difficult to address. The key ingredient, however, is the gradual development of a stock of strategic trust based on what the U.S. and China are able to achieve cooperatively.

However, another common ambition might be the preservation of a functioning global order itself that is capable of effective global decision-making and dispute resolution.

China has a deep philosophical reservation, born of millennia of historical experience, of “chaos under heaven” (tianxia daluan 天下大乱).

Whereas historically this has applied to China’s domestic arrangements to preserve the unity and good government of the empire, China’s now unprecedented global engagement creates a new imperative for order in the international domain as well.

At one level, there is a debate in the international community today about the type of global order we would like for the future: minimalist, maximalist global governance, realist, liberal internationalist, so-called “variable geometry,” etc.

This seems to miss the point in the present international environment.

We may no longer have the luxury of a sumptuous global smorgasbord of options to choose from.

In truth, we now find ourselves confronted by multiple external challenges to an international order of any description.

The enemies of “order” are there for all those with eyes to see:

  • Violent, global jihadism seeking to destroy the very notion of secular states or any society of states;
  • New weapons of mass destruction in the form of cyber terrorism, cyber crime and state-based cyber attack against critical infrastructure;
  • A new generation of global pandemics;
  • Existential threats to the planet through irreversible climate change; and
  • Associated crises in food, water and basic energy supply.

These are attacks against “order” itself.

They should, as a matter of both reason and emotion, cause states to conclude that whatever differences they have between them, these are now smaller than the common threats we now face together as a society of states and our common need to defend the order itself.

Source: The Honorable Kevin M. Rudd