Are China and the US doomed to conflict? | Kevin Rudd


G’day, my name’s Kevin. I’m from Australia. I’m here to help. (Laughter) Tonight, I want to talk about
a tale of two cities. One of those cities is called Washington,
and the other is called Beijing. Because how these two capitals
shape their future and the future of the United States
and the future of China doesn’t just affect those two countries, it affects all of us in ways, perhaps, we’ve never thought of: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the fish we eat,
the quality of our oceans, the languages we speak in the future, the jobs we have,
the political systems we choose, and, of course, the great questions
of war and peace. You see that bloke? He’s French. His name is Napoleon. A couple of hundred years ago, he made this extraordinary projection: “China is a sleeping lion,
and when she awakes, the world will shake.” Napoleon got a few things wrong; he got this one absolutely right. Because China is today
not just woken up, China has stood up
and China is on the march, and the question for us all is where will China go and how do we engage
this giant of the 21st century? You start looking at the numbers,
they start to confront you in a big way. It’s projected that China will become, by whichever measure —
PPP, market exchange rates — the largest economy in the world over the course of the decade ahead. They’re already
the largest trading nation, already the largest exporting nation, already the largest manufacturing nation, and they’re also the biggest
emitters of carbon in the world. America comes second. So if China does become
the world’s largest economy, think about this: It’ll be the first time since this guy was on
the throne of England — George III, not a good friend
of Napoleon’s — that in the world we will have
as the largest economy a non-English speaking country, a non-Western country, a non-liberal democratic country. And if you don’t think
that’s going to affect the way in which the world
happens in the future, then personally, I think
you’ve been smoking something, and it doesn’t mean you’re from Colorado. So in short, the question
we have tonight is, how do we understand this mega-change, which I believe to be the biggest change
for the first half of the 21st century? It’ll affect so many things. It will go to the absolute core. It’s happening quietly.
It’s happening persistently. It’s happening in some senses
under the radar, as we are all preoccupied with what’s going in Ukraine,
what’s going on in the Middle East, what’s going on with ISIS,
what’s going on with ISIL, what’s happening with
the future of our economies. This is a slow and quiet revolution. And with a mega-change
comes also a mega-challenge, and the mega-challenge is this: Can these two great countries, China and the United States — China, the Middle Kingdom, and the United States, Měiguó — which in Chinese, by the way,
means “the beautiful country.” Think about that — that’s the name
that China has given this country for more than a hundred years. Whether these two great civilizations,
these two great countries, can in fact carve out a common future for themselves and for the world? In short, can we carve out a future which is peaceful and mutually prosperous, or are we looking at a great challenge of war or peace? And I have 15 minutes
to work through war or peace, which is a little less time than they gave this guy to write a book
called “War and Peace.” People ask me, why is it that a kid
growing up in rural Australia got interested in learning Chinese? Well, there are two reasons for that. Here’s the first of them. That’s Betsy the cow. Now, Betsy the cow was one
of a herd of dairy cattle that I grew up with on a farm
in rural Australia. See those hands there?
These are not built for farming. So very early on, I discovered
that in fact, working in a farm was not designed for me,
and China was a very safe remove from any career in Australian farm life. Here’s the second reason. That’s my mom. Anyone here ever listen
to what their mom told them to do? Everyone ever do what
their mom told them to do? I rarely did, but what my mom said to me was, one day, she handed me a newspaper, a headline which said,
here we have a huge change. And that change is China
entering the United Nations. 1971, I had just turned 14 years of age, and she handed me this headline. And she said, “Understand this,
learn this, because it’s going to affect your future.” So being a very good student of history, I decided that the best thing
for me to do was, in fact, to go off and learn Chinese. The great thing about learning Chinese is that your Chinese teacher
gives you a new name. And so they gave me this name: Kè, which means to overcome or to conquer, and Wén, and that’s the character
for literature or the arts. Kè Wén, Conqueror of the Classics. Any of you guys called “Kevin”? It’s a major lift from being called Kevin
to be called Conqueror of the Classics. (Laughter) I’ve been called Kevin all my life. Have you been called Kevin all your life? Would you prefer to be called
Conqueror of the Classics? And so I went off after that
and joined the Australian Foreign Service, but here is where pride — before pride,
there always comes a fall. So there I am in the embassy in Beijing, off to the Great Hall of the People with our ambassador, who had asked me
to interpret for his first meeting in the Great Hall of the People. And so there was I. If you’ve been to a Chinese meeting,
it’s a giant horseshoe. At the head of the horsehoe
are the really serious pooh-bahs, and down the end of the horseshoe
are the not-so-serious pooh-bahs, the junior woodchucks like me. And so the ambassador
began with this inelegant phrase. He said, “China and Australia
are currently enjoying a relationship of unprecedented closeness.” And I thought to myself, “That sounds clumsy. That sounds odd. I will improve it.” Note to file: Never do that. It needed to be a little more elegant,
a little more classical, so I rendered it as follows. [In Chinese] There was a big pause
on the other side of the room. You could see the giant pooh-bahs
at the head of the horseshoe, the blood visibly draining
from their faces, and the junior woodchucks
at the other end of the horseshoe engaged in peals of
unrestrained laughter. Because when I rendered his sentence, “Australia and China are
enjoying a relationship of unprecedented closeness,” in fact, what I said was that
Australia and China were now experiencing fantastic orgasm. (Laughter) That was the last time
I was asked to interpret. But in that little story,
there’s a wisdom, which is, as soon as you think you know something
about this extraordinary civilization of 5,000 years of continuing history, there’s always something new to learn. History is against us when it comes to the U.S. and China forging a common future together. This guy up here? He’s not Chinese and he’s not American. He’s Greek. His name’s Thucydides. He wrote the history
of the Peloponnesian Wars. And he made this extraordinary observation about Athens and Sparta. “It was the rise of Athens
and the fear that this inspired in Sparta that made war inevitable.” And hence, a whole literature about
something called the Thucydides Trap. This guy here? He’s not American
and he’s not Greek. He’s Chinese. His name is Sun Tzu.
He wrote “The Art of War,” and if you see his statement underneath,
it’s along these lines: “Attack him where he is unprepared,
appear where you are not expected.” Not looking good so far
for China and the United States. This guy is an American.
His name’s Graham Allison. In fact, he’s a teacher
at the Kennedy School over there in Boston. He’s working on a single project
at the moment, which is, does the Thucydides Trap
about the inevitably of war between rising powers
and established great powers apply to the future
of China-U.S. relations? It’s a core question. And what Graham has done
is explore 15 cases in history since the 1500s to establish what the precedents are. And in 11 out of 15 of them, let me tell you, they’ve ended in catastrophic war. You may say, “But Kevin — or Conqueror of the Classics — that was the past. We live now in a world
of interdependence and globalization. It could never happen again.” Guess what? The economic historians
tell us that in fact, the time which we reached
the greatest point of economic integration and globalization was in 1914, just before that happened, World War I, a sobering reflection from history. So if we are engaged
in this great question of how China thinks, feels, and positions itself
towards the United States, and the reverse, how do we get to the baseline of how these two countries
and civilizations can possibly work together? Let me first go to, in fact, China’s views of the U.S.
and the rest of the West. Number one: China feels
as if it’s been humiliated at the hands of the West
through a hundred years of history, beginning with the Opium Wars. When after that, the Western powers
carved China up into little pieces, so that by the time
it got to the ’20s and ’30s, signs like this one appeared
on the streets of Shanghai. [“No dogs and Chinese allowed”] How would you feel if you were Chinese, in your own country,
if you saw that sign appear? China also believes and feels as if, in the events of 1919,
at the Peace Conference in Paris, when Germany’s colonies were given back to all sorts of countries
around in the world, what about German colonies in China? They were, in fact, given to Japan. When Japan then invaded China in the 1930s the world looked away and was indifferent
to what would happen to China. And then, on top of that,
the Chinese to this day believe that the United States and the West do not accept the legitimacy
of their political system because it’s so radically different
from those of us who come from liberal democracies, and believe that the United States
to this day is seeking to undermine their political system. China also believes
that it is being contained by U.S. allies and by those
with strategic partnerships with the U.S. right around its periphery. And beyond all that,
the Chinese have this feeling in their heart of hearts
and in their gut of guts that those of us in the collective West are just too damned arrogant. That is, we don’t recognize
the problems in our own system, in our politics and our economics, and are very quick
to point the finger elsewhere, and believe that, in fact,
we in the collective West are guilty of a great bunch of hypocrisy. Of course, in international relations, it’s not just the sound
of one hand clapping. There’s another country too,
and that’s called the U.S. So how does the U.S.
respond to all of the above? The U.S. has a response to each of those. On the question of
is the U.S. containing China, they say, “No, look at the history of
the Soviet Union. That was containment.” Instead, what we have done
in the U.S. and the West is welcome China
into the global economy, and on top of that, welcome them
into the World Trade Organization. The U.S. and the West say China cheats on the question
of intellectual property rights, and through cyberattacks
on U.S. and global firms. Furthermore, the United States
says that the Chinese political system is fundamentally wrong because it’s at such fundamental variance to the human rights, democracy,
and rule of law that we enjoy in the U.S. and the collective West. And on top of all the above,
what does the United States say? That they fear that China will,
when it has sufficient power, establish a sphere of influence
in Southeast Asia and wider East Asia, boot the United States out, and in time, when it’s powerful enough, unilaterally seek to change
the rules of the global order. So apart from all of that,
it’s just fine and dandy, the U.S.-China relationship. No real problems there. The challenge, though,
is given those deep-rooted feelings, those deep-rooted emotions
and thought patterns, what the Chinese call “Sīwéi,”
ways of thinking, how can we craft a basis
for a common future between these two? I argue simply this: We can do it on the basis on a framework of constructive realism
for a common purpose. What do I mean by that? Be realistic about the things
that we disagree on, and a management approach
that doesn’t enable any one of those differences
to break into war or conflict until we’ve acquired
the diplomatic skills to solve them. Be constructive in areas of the
bilateral, regional and global engagement between the two, which will make a difference
for all of humankind. Build a regional institution
capable of cooperation in Asia, an Asia-Pacific community. And worldwide, act further, like you’ve begun to do
at the end of last year by striking out against climate change with hands joined together
rather than fists apart. Of course, all that happens
if you’ve got a common mechanism and political will to achieve the above. These things are deliverable. But the question is,
are they deliverable alone? This is what our head
tells us we need to do, but what about our heart? I have a little experience
in the question back home of how you try to bring
together two peoples who, frankly, haven’t had
a whole lot in common in the past. And that’s when I apologized
to Australia’s indigenous peoples. This was a day of reckoning
in the Australian government, the Australian parliament,
and for the Australian people. After 200 years of unbridled abuse
towards the first Australians, it was high time that we white folks
said we were sorry. The important thing — (Applause) The important thing that I remember
is staring in the faces of all those from Aboriginal Australia as they came to listen to this apology. It was extraordinary to see, for example, old women telling me the stories
of when they were five years old and literally ripped away
from their parents, like this lady here. It was extraordinary for me
to then be able to embrace and to kiss Aboriginal elders
as they came into the parliament building, and one woman said to me, it’s the first time a white fella
had ever kissed her in her life, and she was over 70. That’s a terrible story. And then I remember
this family saying to me, “You know, we drove all the way
from the far North down to Canberra to come to this thing, drove our way through redneck country. On the way back, stopped at a cafe
after the apology for a milkshake.” And they walked into this cafe
quietly, tentatively, gingerly, a little anxious. I think you know what I’m talking about. But the day after the apology,
what happened? Everyone in that cafe,
every one of the white folks, stood up and applauded. Something had happened in the hearts
of these people in Australia. The white folks, our Aboriginal
brothers and sisters, and we haven’t solved
all these problems together, but let me tell you,
there was a new beginning because we had gone not just to the head, we’d gone also to the heart. So where does that conclude
in terms of the great question that we’ve been asked
to address this evening, which is the future
of U.S.-China relations? The head says there’s a way forward. The head says there is a policy framework,
there’s a common narrative, there’s a mechanism
through regular summitry to do these things
and to make them better. But the heart must also find a way
to reimagine the possibilities of the America-China relationship, and the possibilities of China’s
future engagement in the world. Sometimes, folks, we just need
to take a leap of faith not quite knowing where we might land. In China, they now talk about
the Chinese Dream. In America, we’re all familiar
with the term “the American Dream.” I think it’s time, across the world, that we’re able to think also
of something we might also call a dream for all humankind. Because if we do that, we might just change the way that we think about each other. [In Chinese] That’s my challenge to America.
That’s my challenge to China. That’s my challenge to all of us, but I think where there’s a will
and where there is imagination we can turn this into a future driven by peace and prosperity and not once again repeat the tragedies of war. I thank you. (Applause) Chris Anderson: Thanks so much for that.
Thanks so much for that. It feels like you yourself
have a role to play in this bridging. You, in a way, are uniquely placed
to speak to both sides. Kevin Rudd: Well, what we Australians
do best is organize the drinks, so you get them together in one room,
and we suggest this and suggest that, then we go and get the drinks. But no, look, for all of us
who are friends of these two great countries,
America and China, you can do something. You can make a practical contribution, and for all you good folks here, next time you meet someone from China, sit down and have a conversation. See what you can find out about
where they come from and what they think, and my challenge for all
the Chinese folks who are going to watch
this TED Talk at some time is do the same. Two of us seeking to change the world
can actually make a huge difference. Those of us up the middle,
we can make a small contribution. CA: Kevin, all power to you,
my friend. Thank you. KR: Thank you. Thank you, folks. (Applause)

97 Replies to “Are China and the US doomed to conflict? | Kevin Rudd”

  1. American is waving the sword while China is waving the pen . In other words let's make China great again . Russia is the sick man of Europe .

  2. China is catching up with the us. in 30 years if nothing will be done china will overtake us economy and then Beijing will be flooded with low paid american immigrants looking for a better life. atm us has still the most powerful army and it is highly likely in the next 20 years there will be military conflict as all other attempts of stopping china have failed.

  3. Damn !
    I was always a sucker for rhetoric.
    An enlightened point of view, thanks Kevin, but I have no faith in the American administration – their combination of capitalist greed and religious lunacy does not bode well for a sensible outcome.
    The last thing I bought from America, a few years back, was a banjo — a good solid professional instrument.
    Chinese banjos are now appearing here in Spain, and the quality and price are amazing.
    My double-bass is Chinese, as is my tenor sax, and the same applies.
    I can't afford to buy American anymore, and for many reasons I prefer not to.
    America wants to dominate the world — China wants to sell us stuff.
    Compare the cuisines and make your choice.

  4. China had the largest economy once before in the 15th and 16th centuries

    https://www.businessinsider.com/history-of-chinese-economy-1200-2017-2017-1

  5. Good lord, im a kiwi who has a chinese wife and one thing im sure is our new leader could not hold a speech like this guy,good on you kevin,or master of the classics!

  6. The tanks at a demonstration and reported 10.000 dead shocked the west but dumping opium by the boatload in China was abysmal ,yes boats of ice now come from that direction our way so it goes back and forth just human nature to a degree ,I hope America can hand over the senior role gracefully taking say a scholarly position perhaps ,imagine if China really got it right with Hong Kong ,then Taiwan, Phillipines,even Japan joined the fold then focussed on developing,Thailand ,Korea s,Vietnam into powerhouse economy's all feeding each other ,with all these topics these days remember 100 nukes loosed =dust nuke winter for years only 1% living underground any chance how about the international space program never hear of it anymore ,educated people steer the boat this way ,space ,cancer , sustainable energy food etc

  7. China and the US should never fight and instead drop their politicians into a pit filled with molten magma. Chinese people are amazing and so are americans. We could be great friends and leaders of the world.

  8. If China is so great like what he is saying, why are the Chinese running away from their motherland, living and working in other countries like the US; EU ; Japan; South Korea?? Even in countries like Vietnam and Philippines?? In Tokyo and South Korea alone, there are over 3 million Chinese working in gov offices; constructions; roads; restaurants; coffee shops; hotels etc..95% of the convenient store staffs in Japan are actually Chinese. So, if you are economically one of the most powerful countries in this planet, why would your citizens be grabbing those low paying jobs competing with the locals of those respective countries, not to mention away from home?? Another question is, North Korea has been the closest allies of China. For 3 generations, look at how North Korea is doing today. Isn't that clear enough? haha..You simply can't believe in everything you hear. Everyone in this planet knows Chinese are well known for showing off and their propagandas. For all you know, this dude may actually be being paid up by Chinese making these propaganda videos boosting China… Btw, buying people up is also a typical Chinese strategy. Good luck !

  9. 多亏川普,中美之间已经没有了互信,古人云,以德报怨,何以报德? 所以说先礼后兵。

  10. Whatever, in China lots of people to feed, we buy what we like,
    Erectus mind from China, come get me.. Philippines. 2000.

  11. Guys, soon your country will be half latinos-blacks… So prepare yourself for the shithole that's gonna be US very soon

  12. Watch a video with George Friedman and he says China is declining. Watch a video with Kevin Rudd and he says China is a waking lion.

  13. I basically believe most everything bad that both the Chinese and American governments say about each other. It reminds me of two children who are always bickering and stirring things up but trying to point the finger.

  14. He was the PM of Australia? Ooh the guilt ooh the white selfhate, i don't feel guilty of anything ,yes we took a lot but we gave back more!

  15. So the USA is afraid of China and other developing nations from losing grip of its power to control the World

  16. My reaction to the cringe @3.42 when Ruddy tried to show off his Mandarin eating skills https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZK_Hi8kqfd8

  17. All I wanna say is he is right we have to find common ground I just dont see it happening unfortunately. Today we have problems with the south china sea and trade wars for economy's. Looking at it I really hope we can step back and think and act as a whole not a singularaty

  18. it is intersting to watch this video in 2019.Xi jinping,the Chinese president,had ever said first China doesnt export revolution,sencond China doesnt export poverty and hunger ,third China doesnt interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.Why the west still worries about China rising?

  19. 中国很好的诠释了这一点呀。中国梦必须要实现。人类命运共同体也同样需要大家一起来实现。

  20. 陆克文所举的事例中就说明了澳大利亚的人权和种族歧视问题。虽然这种道歉来得比较晚,但是还是有进步的。

  21. When people are busy debating about superpower government, they forgot about the war. They just care about the utopia, the wealth that never we will achieve. Everyone talk about how to consume and think about themselves. The reason why Democracy now is in threat because we try to achieve higher goals for ego. What about the Aborigin, the Muslim in Uighur and Iraq, the Jewish people, and Forest inhabitants? We just think they are barbarians, the rat we should let our government kill them all. Why must be war on terror? Why must be racism and anti-semitism?

  22. I checked a lot of comments down here and find some people still living in 60-70s. still don’t know this has not been the world that was separated only by ideologies. This is a much more complicated, uncertain, volatile new world. American government meddled capitalism market during economic crisis, China open free market to domestic and international companies. Both countries are doing business through similar methods. And all Large economies are doing as best as they can to keep themselves in good shape and stay competitive.

  23. America is no match to 🇨🇳…….America spent the last 150 years mistreating black ppl anf basking in evil and racism…and now China has snuck up to be on the way if making America a 3rd world country!!😂😂😂😂✊✊✊✊💪 Yes….Go China!!

  24. The German "colonies" were not given to Japan. Actually, Germany builds a lot of expertise in the Chinese forces up to around 1938 or so when they changed to Japan because of Hitler.

  25. Google will try to change you words if u don't look so u can edit like u stupid and it's them ….taking people s money and ackting like they got their own and not from us so called sheep………., go Trump

  26. Politicians are good at earning applaud….they speak a lot do little
    Role of this gentleman as an Australian politician in international peace is limited

  27. China operates under a totalitarian government. There isn't any freedom there. In China, If you are an outspoken critic of the oppressive powers that be, you are incarcerated or just disappear. China is an organism that has grown to the edge it's Petri dish. Billion plus people and still growing even with 1-2 child policy. These people have to be fed. China is hungry and has to expand and spread out like the giant omnivore it is and there is no stopping it. The Gobi desert is encroaching as we speak. Polution there is incredibly high. Trade wars and diplomacy are all just postponing the inevitable violence that is to come. History as proven this.
    You can listen to this guy dream and speak like a new-age flower child but it's not going to change what is. All the time he spent in the library on the road to being the academic he is obviously has not taught him anything about human nature.

  28. The problem is today Mr Trump.
    He is a rascist and a bunch of other bad things.
    When American sobers up from him with a real politician as president can
    Negotiate respecfully.
    Then the two powers can come to decent agreement.
    The age of tweeting must end if you want to achieve anything seriously.
    How its going on right now from the side of Mr Trump will only put oil on the fire.
    The chinese find it hard to take seriously a man that behaves like a horrible spoilt
    Brat.

  29. Kevin Rudd does a better job of explaining himself in this classic disaster of video recording his thoughts – this is a MUST SEE – https://youtu.be/BVEaHcyMesQ

  30. oh my god, its happening … trade war, currency war, hk , taiwan… when it will end? or what it will end?

  31. yes.China and US is doomed to conflict. Definitely tyes. Because US will not allow any country to undermine its superiority. But US will be destroyed before any conflict with China will happen. US will experience an explosiion that wikll put US on its knees begging for humanitatrian help. The YELLOW STONE ERUPTION.