China-Australia relations: ex-Australian PM Kevin Rudd tells West to offer alternatives to Pacific islands, not ‘lectures’ about their ties with Beijing
- Some Western nations have criticised the Solomon Islands-China pact, claiming the move will lead to Beijing bolstering its military presence in the region
- Kevin Rudd said the West must offer better and more development-friendly proposals to Pacific Island nations, rather than a ‘stern moral lecture’
The comments by Rudd, the ex-leader of the Australian Labor Party that swept to power in last weekend’s election, comes amid duelling visits by the new Australian foreign minister Penny Wong and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to the Pacific region this week.
“The critical thing for the island states is to ensure that their basic national interests are being properly attended to by the large powers around the Pacific, Rudd said in a dialogue session at Nikkei’s Future of Asia conference.
He said these micronations – with “micro-budgets” crucially required development assistance, policy arrangements to protect their extensive fisheries resources and protection of their territorial integrity as they come under threat from rising sea levels.
The way forward was “not to issue public declarations condemning any of these countries for beginning to sign agreements with China”, Rudd said.
“These are sovereign states, they’re entitled to do what they wish to do. The challenge for Australia and other partners in the region is to offer different, better and more development-friendly proposals for consideration embraced by these governments rather than delivering them a stern moral lecture,” he said. “The latter is more likely to have an averse reaction.”
Bilahari suggested recent events, including the international community’s reaction to the Russian invasion, indicated that the “global correlation of forces” was moving in the direction of the West “and China cannot be very happy about it”.
The conflict has “coalesced the West, coalesced Europe, it has given new energy to the Quad [group of nations],” he said.
He suggested that the US was seeking an “ideological” international order, while Beijing was seeking a “secular” order that was based on “national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.