Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chinese speaking Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (former PM) is no China expert?

The outgoing Australian Ambassador to China Geoff Raby has given some useful tips that unmasked the ignorance of China expert wannabes. Outward appearances such as ability to speak Mandarin are deceptive - these people usually have no clue about China.

Two years ago, I had warned excited friends and online commentators to be more circumspect with the Prime Minister hopeful Kevin Rudd.

Indeed subsequent policies under Rudd's leadership showed he was antagonistic towards China. His failure to give face to the Chinese hosts by publicly chiding them of human rights violation without acknowledging the progress made was an immediate failure for China 101. Rudd's White Paper which identified China's growing influence in the region and naval buildup as a balance to the longstanding US presence was another thorn that strained bilateral relations.

Tough talking Kevin Rudd cares more about pleasing his xenophobic constituency and showing off to his western counterparts. Heed not his aggressive and confrontational advice or risk going to war in East Asia (after failures in Middle East, Vietnam and Africa). His personality and prejudices have hindered Australia's bid to make gains in its foreign policy objectives. Why would the USA and European leaders want to learn from Rudd?

People gave Rudd too much credit for being able to speak Chinese. Though he enunciates fairly accurate intonation, he sticks to the typical westernised reverse sentence strucutre, comprehensible but that's not Chinese.
There are many so-called Chinese experts commenting on China from their ivory tower or choosing to report on one apsect of the historically complex, multidimensional and multicultural nation only.  There is much more to learn for everyone, including ethnic Chinese diaspora in the world who have often made summary erroreous judgements about China time and again.

The same maxim should apply to the writer of the report (John Garnaut) whose lack of understanding of his coverage is due not to his language handicap but tinted lenses.

Some cynical business commentators call for "long-term" planning. However, it one can't get pass the short-term, the long-term destination will be irrelevant. While Asia will face problems of ageing, the huge savings and market for aged is an area industrialised and advanced economies could target. Moreover, it does not look as if the US and Europe will get out of the doldrums anytime soon or if at all without revolutionary change in mindset and policies.

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