The leaked conversation between Hillary Clinton and Kevin Rudd contradicts the perception that the former Australian prime minister was “soft” on China. After all, a warning that the US and allies must be prepared to “deploy force” should the plan to integrate China into the regional and global system fail are hardly the words of a pacifist. Casting a suspicious eye on China’s military build-up and calling Beijing “paranoid” over issues such as Taiwan and Tibet is not really the statement of someone happy to cede east and south-east Asia to Beijing.
It stacks up well — as far as consistency is concerned — with the 2009 Defence White Paper, which took a somewhat wary and even hawkish view of China’s rise. So Rudd deserves points for confronting some brutal truths about possible threats associated with China’s re-emergence. Nevertheless, they also seem to confirm several mistakes that Rudd made while he was prime minister.