Monday, June 16, 2008

What was Rudd thinking?

Presumably we, (like Hawke, Keating and pretty much everyone else) are now over the gritted teeth initial reaction to not being consulted on Rudd's Asia Pacific community proposal and it's time to work out what the substance of the proposal is.

I have found the Lowy Institute's Interpreter blog useful on this. Sam Roggeveen believes that getting the regional structure right does matter, while Hugh White believes that Rudd is not truly serious about the proposal and that it does not do anything to address the serious issues facing the region. (If White and Greg Sheridan of the Australian agree on this then perhaps the proposal really is an utter waste of time!)

For Australia these important issues are strategic tensions between the US, China and Japan. White:

So let’s get real: before we can build forums or institutions that work effectively to create the kind of peaceful Asia we all hope for in the Asian Century, the region’s major powers are going to have to start accepting that they have to deal with one another on a rather different basis from the way they have been operating for the last few decades. To build Rudd’s vision, the US will have to start treating China as an equal, China will have to start treating Japan as an equal. These are big concessions, which will not easily be made, and so far there is little sign that they will be. Helping to mobilise these fundamental changes in relationships between major powers is the most urgent issue for Asia, and an immense challenge to Australian diplomacy. But nothing is more important for us.

Relations between those countries would seem to be very important to New Zealand too, so it would be great to see some more discussion of the background to Rudd's moves in the NZ press.

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