“Put away the megaphone” and take a leaf out of Japan’s diplomatic playbook – that was former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd’s advice to Canberra as the country’s relationship with China continues to deteriorate to lows unseen since ties were formalised five decades ago. Speaking at the China Conference organised by the South China Morning Post on Tuesday, Rudd said he viewed Tokyo’s ability to deal with Beijing as particularly instructive because of the similarities between the East Asian giant and Australia. As China and Australia exchange blows, what can stop the fight? “Japan’s a close ally of the United States like Australia, Japan has a huge economic relationship with China like Australia, Japan is a liberal democracy like Australia, and Japan – unlike Australia – has an ongoing territorial dispute with China in the East China Sea over the [Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands],” Rudd said. “Notwithstanding all of the above, I noticed that both [Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga, respectively the former and current prime minister of Japan], at least in the last several years, have been able to manage a relationship with Beijing, which has not been the subject of a rolling, as it were, crisis.” Rudd, a diplomat-turned-politician who was prime minister twice between 2007 and 2013 and also served a two-year stint as foreign minister, said he “could not recall a period [of Australia-China ties] like they have at the present”. He suggested that a “restabilisation” of ties between the US and China after President-elect Joe Biden takes office could bring about some positive change to the current state of affairs. “If the US is about to engage with the People’s Republic of China on the restabilisation of the US-China relationship, I think it may well be an element of American strategic thinking to cause Beijing to conclude that a parallel restabilisation with the Canadians, with the Australians, and with others with whom China has had a fractious relationship in recent years, [could also be] part of that overall arrangement.” Australia PM hits back on WeChat over China’s war crimes tweet If that were to transpire, Rudd – who has a degree in Chinese studies and garnered plaudits during his time in office for his command of Mandarin – said he hoped both countries would “put away the megaphone and resort to something very old-fashioned – it’s called diplomacy”. “Diplomacy means taking China’s outstanding issues with Australia, but also Australia’s outstanding issues with China, and using diplomatic processes to work through them one by one,” he said. Rudd, who governed under the aegis of the centre-left Labour Party, did not directly mention current Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison or his centre-right coalition, though he has in the past hit out at the ruling government for grandstanding on China-related issues. He lauded Japan’s modus operandi of putting their megaphone “under the desk” and having a foreign policy where the government is “not silent about everything [but is] selective about the things that you are not going to be silent about”. Rudd’s remarks in a pre-recorded virtual interview that aired on Tuesday came as the bilateral relationship took another turn for the worse, with the two countries in a fresh row after a Chinese official posted a fake image on Twitter of an Australian soldier appearing to be on the verge of killing an Afghan child. US-China relations: ex-Australia PM Rudd sees re-engagement but no return to ‘status quo ante’ The post was related to an independent investigation by Canberra that found evidence Australian soldiers had participated in unlawful killings during deployments to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2016. China last week announced it would impose temporary anti-dumping tariffs of up to 212.1 per cent on wine imported from Australia. Ties have deteriorated significantly since Morrison in April called for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. That move enraged Beijing, which viewed the suggestion as an effort by the West to pin blame on it for the global health crisis.