Former PM Kevin Rudd has said China “doesn’t give a damn” about Australian leadership changes. Picture: Kym Smith
Former PM Kevin Rudd has said China “doesn’t give a damn” about Australian leadership changes. Picture: Kym Smith

China ‘doesn’t give a damn about us’

Australia's high turnover of Prime Ministers in recent years has not damaged our relationship with China, according to Kevin Rudd.

The former PM dismissed concerns Australia's leadership instability has hurt or weakened Australian-Chinese relations when speaking in his capacity as the President of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York early this morning.

"I don't think the Chinese give a damn [about the leadership changeover]," Mr Rudd told News Corp Australia, saying they simply do not see it as "relevant".

"China deals with states. It doesn't matter whether they 'like' President Obama or 'like' President Trump, for example … the Chinese leadership are dealing with the Australian state or the American state," Mr Rudd said.

Kevin Rudd has said Australia’s high turnover of Prime Ministers in recent years has not damaged our relationship with China. Picture: Kym Smith
Kevin Rudd has said Australia’s high turnover of Prime Ministers in recent years has not damaged our relationship with China. Picture: Kym Smith

"Therefore they will treat any Australian prime minister or American president with the respect they deserve due to their office," he said.

"President Trump actually has a high level of respect in Beijing. That's my view."

However, Mr Rudd, one of five people to hold the office of Australian Prime Minister in just over five years, claimed it could be perceived differently by other nations and world leaders.

"It's a separate reputational question for Australia writ large given we've had three conservative prime ministers in five years, which I think is overdoing it."

Mr Rudd's comments came a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the Liberal Party had changed leadership rules to end "coup culture".

Kevin Rudd said Donald Trump “has a high level of respect in Beijing”. Picture: AP
Kevin Rudd said Donald Trump “has a high level of respect in Beijing”. Picture: AP

A two-thirds majority is now required to trigger a leadership spill and unseat a Liberal Party leader, a move Mr Morrison described as "putting the power back into the hands of the Australian people".

In his remarks at the Asia Society, Mr Rudd, an Honorary Professor at Peking University who is fluent in Mandarin and worked as a diplomat at the Australian embassy in China in the 1980s, also discussed the "profoundly complex questions" posed by American-Chinese relations going into 2019.

 

Malcolm Turnbull was ousted by the Liberal Party in August. Picture: AAP
Malcolm Turnbull was ousted by the Liberal Party in August. Picture: AAP

 

After just a few months in the top job, Scott Morrison is already feeling the pressure. Picture: AAP
After just a few months in the top job, Scott Morrison is already feeling the pressure. Picture: AAP

"It's historically unprecedented to be in the midst of a debate about whether the world's largest economy and oldest continuing democracy, the US, can happily coexist with the world's second-largest economy, and oldest continuing civilisation.

"Given that the latter has never exhibited in its history any attraction to liberal democratic norms," he said. "In terms of degrees of difficulty, this is right up there.

He also noted the "increasingly polarised debate in both countries about each other."

 

Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd played musical chairs with the Labor leadership. Picture: AAP
Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd played musical chairs with the Labor leadership. Picture: AAP

 

"Americans believe China is stealing their future. Many of them are angry, and have been mobilised to be angry," he said.

"The Chinese … whether they are from the right or the left of the spectrum within their own debate, believe that Americans are now deliberately containing China, because Americans cannot cope with the idea of ever being number two.

"Particularly if number one happens to be Asian."



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