Kevin Rudd enters onto the world stage.

Kevin Rudd, on his first overseas trip, is proving to be a surprise to all. His responses have been unexpected. From his ‘salute’ to the US President, to the lack of a bow from the neck to the monarch of Britain and now telling China that he is a ” true friend, one who can be a “zhengyou”, that is a partner who sees beyond immediate benefit to the broader and firm basis for continuing, profound and sincere friendship,” and bringing up the dreaded ‘T’ word in the middle of the Tibetan crisis.

As an Australian I must say that I was expecting to feel the usual ‘cringe’ moment as in the past, when our ‘fearless’ leaders would traipse about the planet as subservient and colourless yes-men. How refreshing to find Mr Rudd to be his own man, in demeanor and in what he has said. This is the first time in a long time that I have felt satisfied with an Australian politician abroad. I have never been a fan of the fawning that has characterised so many of those that have gone before. What needed to be said was said and, as the China Daily quoting Zhang Jie, an associate researcher of Asia-Pacific studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, put it “Kevin Rudd’s position on Tibet is basically the same as that of many Western countries, but his rhetoric is more tactful and less nasty.” Somehow the ‘zhengyou’ had been able to say what the world wanted the Chinese to hear.

The mainstream Australian media have been frenzied both on the “salute” as on the “Beijing delivers an angry rebuke.” themes. Yesterday the Chinese newspapers had not mentioned his comments on Tibet, preferring to dwell on Rudd’s opposition to the Olympic boycotts and his recognition of China’s sovereignty over Tibet. The front page story on the China Daily was “Rudd turns on the charm-and students lap it up.” Today the headline in the China Daily was “Rudd highlights shared wishes” and the story actually discussed the differences of opinion on Tibet. The tone is far different from that being expressed in the Australian press. In fact, there is almost a sour, begrudging and sullen attitude in the Australian press: “Kevin Rudd has pulled off a diplomatic and political swifty,” and “Butt out China tells Rudd.” The doom and gloom brigade still have not recognised that the election of Kevin Rudd really did mark the beginning of a brand new day in Australian diplomacy and Australia’s place on the world stage. Australia is no longer America’s “cats paw”.

Kevin Rudd has performed well above my expectations and he is to be applauded for being so forthright in his stance. I will closes with the editorial from Britain’s The Independent: “Aussie rules: ”

“We were looking forward to Kevin Rudd’s term as Australia’s Prime Minister, and so far we have not been disappointed. On the contrary, with his plain speaking, his firm principles as a politician and – a bit of a luxury, this – his fluent Mandarin, Mr Rudd has not only met our expectations, but inspired not a little envy as well.

He gave a huge hall of students some unpalatable home truths; what is more, he did it in their own language. On human rights in China generally, in Tibet in particular, and on the need for dialogue, he was bang on message – his own. The world needs more leaders like this; we hope he has started as he means to go on.”

Hear, Hear!

Here is the link to the Beijing University speech.

~ by abstraktbiblos on Friday, 11 April, 2008.

One Response to “Kevin Rudd enters onto the world stage.”

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