Australia doubts 'Arab Spring' for China

2012-01-14 08:00
New York - Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday voiced doubt that China was on the verge of an "Arab Spring", saying that the country has historically pushed ahead during leadership transitions.

Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat who has long studied China, said in a speech at the Asia Society in New York that China has been "exceptionally diligent" in meeting objectives such as pulling people out of poverty.

While acknowledging China's major problems including pollution, corruption and intolerance of dissent, Rudd said it was a mistake to conflate single issues such as human rights with the broader question of what the Chinese want.

"I have so far found no evidence to support the multiple analyses over several decades now that China was on the verge of breaking up, or its rising middle class was about to bring about a Chinese version of the Arab Spring and with it the collapse of Communist Party rule," Rudd said.

"This has perhaps been more of a reflection of wishful thinking by some, rather than any real analysis of Chinese politics on the one hand and the actual performance of the Chinese economy on the other," he said.

Late leader Deng Xiaoping "once urged the Chinese people to seek truth from facts. We should heed his exhortation and do the same," Rudd said.

China last year carried out one of its most sweeping crackdowns on dissent in years, apparently spooked by the mass protests in the Arab world that overthrew authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

In bold defiance of China's rulers, residents of the village of Wukan in southern Guangdong province last month drove out party officials and held out for more than a week after complaining about land grabs.

Rudd said that China's leaders were keenly aware of the opportunities presented by their country's rapid economic growth and were determined to develop both at home and overseas.

Rudd said he expected a similar push forward as China heads into a leadership transition later this year. Vice President Xi Jinping is widely expected to take the country's helm in early 2013.

"China has continued to drive ahead in rigorous pursuit of its national objectives in the three sets of leadership changes that have occurred since 1978 - and, as we are about to see, the fourth later this year," he said.

Read more on:    china  |  australia

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