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Kevin Michael Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010, entered the political history of Australia as the first Prime Mister who fluently spoke Mandarin and whose focus on the cooperation with Asian countries was one of the three pillars of his foreign policy. After his election in 2007, he continued the approach of the previous Prime Minister John Howard, paying much attention to the Asian issues (Medeiros et al. 2008). His concern about the issues in the Asian countries, speeches in front of the Chinese immigrants in fluent Mandarin, and his general course for the closer relations with China made him popular in the western media and aroused hot discussions in the Chinese press. Rudd’s active foreign policy contributed a lot to both the development of relations between Australia and China and the domestic economy of Australia itself.
Brief Description of Kevin Rudd’s Policy
Rudd’s interest in China can be traced back to his student years when he majored in Chinese Language and Chinese History. Having entered the politics, he implemented his knowledge and concern into his foreign policy and did not lose. Emphasizing the importance of the foreign policy in general, he spent more than a quarter of his term in office abroad. During his first four months of government, he visited the Solomon Islands, East Timor, and New Guinea. During the next months, he visited five more countries, including China, where he gave a frank and rather critical speech about the Chinese influence on Tibet, still remaining a true friend of China (Australia’s Prime Ministers 2014). For the three years of Rudd’s government, his political acts had a long-term positive impact on the relationship between Australia and China.
Kevin Rudd’s Influence on the Australia-China Relations
During the elections of 2007, the Chinese question was mostly out of discussion, yet it was one of the issues of Kevin Rudd’s election campaign, which contributed to his rating. For centuries, Australia has been a refuge for hundreds of Chinese immigrants. Therefore, today, Chinese people have formed a significant minority group in Australia, which could not help noticing the favourable attitude of the Prime Minister to their motherland. Besides, Kevin Rudd has always been loyal to the Chinese immigration to Australia. Meanwhile, the public attitude to China has also altered a lot in comparison with the years of the Cold War. Australian inner reforms and beginning of active cooperation with China smoothed some contradictions and made Australian views on Chinese immigrants more positive.
The policy of fruitful cooperation with China resulted in significant benefits for Australian economics and its world position. By 2010, “a surging China has become Australia's No. 1 trading partner. It has pumped $40 billion worth of investments into the Australian economy in the past 18 months alone” (Pomfret 2010). Due to such powerful trade, Australia managed to withstand the global economic crisis more than any other country. Besides, it has improved its infrastructure, satisfied the energy demands and modernized the economy in general. During the years of his leading the government, Kevin Rudd managed to find a balance between the USA and China’s interests, developing a new road-map between these two countries and thus building up a new type of strategic relationship in the world.
To sum up, the years of Kevin Rudd’s government became significant for the relations between Australia and China. Due to his personal interest in China, fluent knowledge of Mandarin language, and great concern about the Chinese issues, Kevin Rudd managed to make China the paramount trading partner of Australia. Building the foreign policy on the interests of both countries, he created the base for the further fruitful cooperation of the two countries with great demands. Not only was he seeking the strengthening of Australian domestic economy, but was also trying to build the international relations between the US and China, making a significant impact on the geopolitics of the world in whole. His years of government left a solid basis for the further development of Australia’s foreign policy and the cooperation of the biggest countries in the world.