by Li Zhihui
DUBAI, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Michael Rudd said that despite value differences and misunderstandings, the West should engage more with a rising China, and a new strategic roadmap between China and the United States should be developed as both sides have more in common than it seems.
Rudd, who serves as a member of the Australian parliament, said in a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua that China and the United States (and the West in general) should have more engagement based on common principles and common interests regarding the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region and the world.
There are obstacles to remove, according to Rudd. The label some Western countries attach to China as a "risk" to global economic stability does not reflect the reality. Second, labels are not helpful for anybody, to solve global economic and security issues, said Rudd, who is proficient in Mandarin and has travelled, lived and worked in China on nearly 100 occasions over the last 30 years.
Despite differences in values, and despite misunderstandings which exist in almost every domain, basic Chinese values and Western values have more in common than it seemed at a first glance, said Rudd.
China's strive for harmony and balance is also existent in the Western parliamentary system. "Parliaments have been created to balance different interests in society," he explained. Harmony and balance are concepts that also exist in multilateral institutions within the world order.
Because China is in a period of transition, it is the time for engagement. "The U. S. and the West often expect China to take the initiative, but engagement must come from Western and other powers as well."
The debate about China's future in the world is not just the sound of one hand clapping. The attitude and the actions of the rest of the international community can also have a profound effect, he said.
Rudd said that as U.S. President Barack Obama will soon start his second term, and China now has a new Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, "both leaders must come together to work on a strategic road map in order to tackle global issues like trade liberalization, global security and global warming."
This strategic road map includes the efforts of both countries to familiarize themselves with each other, a realistic program to make the international system work, U.S. acceptance of China's peaceful rise, and China's acceptance of the continued U.S. strategic presence in the Asia-Pacific, as well as a common commitment to a principle of non-use of force in the resolution of regional disputes, according to Rudd.
Rudd praised the model of the East Asia Summit in pursuing common security and the economic development of the region. In the past, Asia has had no such institutions to prevent or reduce the possibility of any individual incident leading to escalation across the rest of the region, Rudd said.
With the expansion of the East Asia Summit last November to include the United States and Russia, all the major powers of this region can sit around a single table at summit level with an open mandate on political, security and economic matters. Thus, confidence-building measures, greater military to military communications, joint exercises as a common response to natural disasters as well as common commitments to open economic cooperation are now possible, he said.
In order to ease tensions through misunderstandings, Rudd proposed the concept of a candid friendship, which means that both sides tell each other in which fields they disagree without questioning the fundamental friendship and respect between nations.
"You may be right or may be wrong. No one is right all the time. The key principle is recognizing these potentially vast areas we have in common while being open to and respectful about those areas where we may disagree."
China and the West for example may clash in Africa where both have economic and political interests. "But isn't it good for the peoples in Africa if both sides invest in the continent?" Rudd asked, in order to show again the common denominator in an area which is often regarded as one of increasing rivalry between both sides.
Asked about China's future development, Rudd said China's biggest challenge in the next few years is its transformation to a growth model based more on domestic consumption, the services sector, a greater role for private business and less carbon intensive energy consumption.
"In general, I am optimistic about China's future development," he said, adding that he believes China's new leadership has the considerable experience and great wisdom in tackling the economic reforms and global security challenges that lie ahead.