The suggestion that my government “torpedoed” the first Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between Australia, India, the United States and Japan is nothing more than a lie. But it is just one of a long litany of errors in a piece (“Garcetti and China: Unease over Biden’s ambassador pick for India”, 24 July 2021) that presents no definitive evidence or empirical sources whatsoever to support its inaccurate and defamatory assertions.
The fact is Australia withdrew from the idea of a Quad under my conservative predecessor, John Howard—not me. This announcement was delivered by Australian officials to our trilateral partners, Japan and America, in Washington in July 2007—a fact documented in a State Department cable subsequently published by Wikileaks. The Howard government then announced this publicly through its Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, and Defence Minister Brendan Nelson during his tour Beijing and New Delhi later that month. The reality therefore is that by the time my government came to power in December 2007, there was simply no Quad to even torpedo.
Furthermore, no other government was willing to pursue it. Its biggest advocate, Shinzo Abe of Japan, had been replaced by Yasuo Fukuda by late 2007, who rejected Abe’s vision for both the Quad and an alliance of democracies. The Bush administration in the United States, which sought Beijing’s support to confront Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs, was adamant that there would be no quadrilateral meetings “at the ministerial or sub-ministerial level”. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressly rejected any four-way security dialogue, saying it “never got going” and he was going to prioritise India-China relations as an “imperative necessity”. That was on January 10, 2008—almost a month before my government acknowledged the consensus position of the Quad capitals and reaffirmed the Howard position.
As for the view that the Asia Society is somehow “too close to China”—or me in particular based on a 2018 speech I was invited to give to America’s military recruits at West Point—is ludicrous. Any cursory review of the text of that address (https://sinocism.com/p/understanding-chinas-rise-under-xi-jinping-by-the-honourable-kevin-rudd) or of the rest of my written work and that of my senior colleagues at the Asia Society (https://asiasociety.org/policy-institute) fundamentally repudiates that proposition. Furthermore, even the most cursory review of my record as Prime Minister of Australia—a cursory reading of the 2009 Defence White Paper should suffice—demonstrates a brutally realistic approach to China’s strategic posture in the Indo-Pacific.
The Asia Society was founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller to build bridges between the United States and the countries of Asia. It has done so over the last 65 years and now has centres in Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Manila, Sydney, Melbourne and Mumbai as well as Washington, New York, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Zurich. Our whole mission is to navigate shared futures for all of us in Asia, which is exactly what my speech to those young West Point cadets was all about: helping them understand clearly Xi Jinping’s strategic priorities to help them better navigate the dangerous shoals of US-China relations to hopefully preserve the peace for us all.
Indeed, if the author had bothered to read even the last line of my speech, it described Xi Jinping’s administration as one of “a new authoritarianism”. Even if the author failed to read that, as a keen student of China I’ve sure he would have read the recent editorial in The Global Times, the Chinese newspaper which reflects Beijing’s official position, including its robust personal attack on criticisms I have made of Chinese foreign and security policy. (https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202105/1224837.shtml)
President of the Asia Society and a former Prime Minister of Australia
THE EDITOR, MS JOYEETA BASU, REPLIES
Thanks are due to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for letting us know that he did not torpedo the first edition of the Quad. We hope he will also similarly correct all the scholars of geopolitics and representatives of international media who have been spreading this presumed “lie”. Also, we are delighted to learn that the esteemed former Australian Prime Minister is a trenchant critic of the People’s Republic of China. The world is looking for leaders who will voice the abhorrence that many in the democracies feel about what is essentially a malign power, an aggressor, a land grabber and a human rights violator. We are looking forward to seeing Prime Minister Rudd voicing the disgust the civilised world feels for PRC, from more public platforms. Please take the lead, we are with you.
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