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[Aussie Prime Minister Elder Brother] Greg Rudd’s Right and Wrong Points*

Posted by on 2009/09/02. Filed under Opinions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

By Liang Jing
Sep 2, 2009 – 8:17:15 AM

Only when I read Yang Hengjun’s open letter to Kevin Rudd on the Internet did I know that he had a brother named Greg, who published an article in The Australian on 25 August, a translation of which was immediately reproduced in the mainland circulated Reference News. Reading his article and readers’ comments on it, I feel that it was indeed a thought-provoking article.[1] The core issue it raised wasn’t whether democracy could work in China or not, but how the West is to come to term with the re-emergence of authoritarian China, which presents a dilemma to the West and to the world as a whole in the twenty-first century. Greg Rudd’s answer to this dilemma is stated in the title of his article, “Goodwill offers a rich yield.” His idea is typical of quite a few among Western elites. Their consensus is that, like it or not, authoritarian China’s re-emergence to great power status in the contemporary world is already an unavoidable fact, and that keeping up Cold War era thinking and approaches to dealing with China will not only not help to change China, but will do no one any good. They argue therefore that the West should accept China as a new neighbour, to be “taken on trust,” and this will eventually benefit everyone including themselves.

What endeared the elder Rudd’s article to the Chinese authorities was its major thesis that there is no possibility of China achieving genuine democracy. But this offended those Chinese who long for democracy. A Chinese netizen expressed his feelings as follows:

“It was frightening enough that an official mouthpiece like Reference News should actually accept that ‘democracy does not work in China’! Frightening also that the international community accepts it as well! Still more terrifying that it should be accepted by the mainstream in China! More terrifying again, should it end up becoming a fact! Most frightening should it end up becoming an unalterable fact!” [2]

It was precisely because he couldn’t accept Greg Rudd’s judgment that Yang Hengjun issued his protest on behalf of those many Chinese committed to political democracy. I understand his feelings, but don’t care for the letter of protest. In my opinion, Greg Rudd’s judgment had nothing to do with racial discrimination, in particular against the Chinese people. Indeed, I think Greg Rudd likes Chinese people and culture very much, and is quite optimistic about Chinese democracy. The real question then is, why, in his judgment, would it be very difficult to achieve democracy in China? Is this judgment well founded?

2009 is the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Peoples Republic of China. An important reason that it was able to defeat the Kuomintang sixty years ago was that the progressive forces and the people in China at that time believed that a CPC victory could bring about a just society, could bring political democracy. I believe that had a majority of the Chinese intellectuals, including a majority of CPC members, foreseen at that time what was to happen, the CPC could not have won political power. I believe also that the CPC leaders, including Mao Zedong himself, were convinced they were pursuing democracy. The Chinese revolution proved that Chinese people saw democracy as morally superior to dictatorship, and were not afraid to shed their own blood for democracy. How then could the Chinese revolution have led to such a huge disaster?

Why are we still inextricably bogged down in the trap of dictatorship? I don’t believe conspiracy theories explain the history of China, nor do I believe in cultural determinism. I only know that we have not come up with convincing answers to many of the historical questions of modern times, and as long as we fail to adopt an honest and mature attitude to our own history, but remain stuck in the mentality of disregarding changing circumstances, remain content with moral criticism of historical figures while indulging our own sense of moral superiority, we will fail to impress foreigners with any confidence in China’s democratic future. We will have no right to blame foreigners for being frustrated with China’s authoritarian reality, after all, China is so huge that changing it must rely on the maturity and enlightenment of the Chinese people.

Of course, the elder Rudd’s article is not without problems. One of them is that he judges the prospects of democracy in China on the pessimistic side. The two radical revolutions of the last century long ago pushed China onto the express train of history. The price paid by China to achieve political democracy has been very great, and is likely to make the world pay a heavy price as well; but China will not necessarily require a very long the time to realize democracy.

Rudd’s second problem is that he seems too optimistic about the efficacy of goodwill. Goodwill is important, but if one of the parties lacks knowledge and wisdom, goodwill may be counterproductive. China is not an ordinary neighbour, but rather a superpower equipped with nuclear teeth, and with a population of 1.4 billion. If this neighbour is too paranoid, the whole global village is in for hard times. Greg Rudd certainly understands these principles, but he knows better than to come out with things that would serve no purpose and do his business no good.


* Liang Jing, “Lu Kelei de shi yu fei” [Greg Rudd’s rights and wrongs], , 1 September 2009 [梁京: “陆克雷的是与非”, ,2009年9月 1日].

[1] 致陆克文总理公开信:你哥哥歧视中国人<http://news.boxun.com/news/gb/yuanqing/2009/08/200908300032.shtml;
Greg Rudd, “Goodwill offers a rich yield,” The Australian, 25 August 2009 [http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25975429-7583,00.html].

[2] Lu Kewen baoxiong li ting Zhong-Ao youhao (Kevin Rudd’s elder brother lays stress on Sino-Australian friendship) [陆克文胞兄力挺中澳友好<http://ckxx.org.cn/ckxx/ckxx20090826/ ].

Translated by David Kelly
China Research Centre
University of Technology Sydney

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