Kevin Rudd

Xi Jinping sees economy needs reform, Kevin Rudd says

'This administration understands what it's up against,' former Australian PM believes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 2:19am

Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd says Vice-President Xi Jinping , the man tipped to be China's next president, will be a leader the world can work with.

"I've gotten to know him reasonably well, spending many hours speaking to him, and he's his own man, confident about where he wants to take the country … this leadership is one that the world and the US can truly do business with," Rudd told an Australian Chamber of Commerce lunch in Hong Kong yesterday.

Rudd said Xi and the Communist Party leadership he would head understood the need for a new economic model on the mainland to maintain sufficient economic growth to keep the public happy - a model that moves away from state ownership, cheap labour and exports, to one centred on consumption and a more active private sector.

"It's not fascination and love with the model that cause the Chinese to change - it's practical," he said. "It's like that saying by Deng Xiaoping : 'It doesn't matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches the mouse.' To catch the mouse of the eight or more per cent growth and 20 million or more jobs that's needed each year as more graduates move into the Chinese economy.

"I believe this administration understands what it's up against."

Rudd said Xi also had a deep view of recent Chinese history, learning important lessons from his father, Xi Zhongxun , who knew first hand about China's economic reform, the military and suffering during the Cultural Revolution, which would aid him in his term as president.

He added that while his view was unconventional, he believed the Chinese leadership would take steps in the next five years to widen the role of the private sector, moving towards privatising some state-owned enterprises and creating a non-discriminatory environment to allow equitable access to capital.

Separately, Rudd criticised the UN food agency at a conference in Hong Kong yesterday for failing to do enough on food security, as fears mount of a repeat of the 2007-08 food crisis. He said the leadership of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), based in Rome, needed to get its act together and not just release "another set of reports".

"The fact that we're having this kind of conference is an indictment of the failure of the FAO," he said. "The execution of its mandate, which is food security, must now be done."

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse