PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 15854

A Conversation with China's Youth on the Future, Peking University

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 09/04/2008

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 15854

I begin by congratulating Peking University which this year celebrates its 110th anniversary - making this university three years older than the Commonwealth of Australia.

Peking University is the most famous in China.

And it has played an important part in modern Chinese history.

In the early 20th century, when China was going through a period of rapid transformation, it was Peking University that led movements for a new era in Chinese educational, cultural and political life.

Peking University was at the centre of the May 4th Movement.

The May 4th era - for I realise that it was a transformative decade from 1917 to 1927 - was one of crucial and lasting importance in the emergence of a modern China.

Many famous figures in this period were active at your university.

One thinks, for example, of Cai Yuanpei, Chen Duxiu, Hu Shi, Li Dazhao and Lu Xun.

This year, 2008, is the 90th anniversary of some key events of the May Fourth era:

- through his essays for the major magazine New Youth the writer and educator Hu Shi successfully advocated the use of modern vernacular Chinese in education and the media.

This helped bring about a major change in the way that the young people of China expressed themselves to their compatriots.

Also the writer Lu Xun published the first, and justifiably famous, story in modern Chinese, Diary of a Madman.

I would also note that Lu Xun's design for the school crest of Peking University is still in use.

Indeed, you, the students of Peking University today, are heirs to a great tradition of intellectual engagement with your country.

Studying China

This is not the first time I have visited Peking University.

But it is the first time I have given a speech here.

It is a great honour for me.

And it is a great honour for me to address the students of this university because you are an important part of China's future.

I first started studying China and the Chinese language in 1976.

It was a different China back then.

Zhou Enlai had just died.

Mao Zedong was still alive.

And the Cultural Revolution had not concluded - indeed our Chinese language textbooks were still full of class struggle.

Some have asked me why I decided to study Chinese.

I had grown up on a farm in rural Queensland where China seemed very remote.

I remember as a teenager following closely the visit of Australia's Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to China on television in 1973 after the Australia Labor Government recognised China in 1972.

I remember watching the footage of him meeting Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping escorting his party on a tour to the Great Wall.

That visit inspired my interest in this extraordinary country.

When I went to university I knew that I wanted to study China.

I went to the Australian National University in Canberra.

And for the next four years I studied Chinese language, Chinese history and Chinese literature together with Japanese and Korean history as well.

I even studied Chinese calligraphy, but my calligraphy was ugly then - and it is even uglier now.

Later I became a diplomat.

Because I was a graduate in Chinese, the then Australian Government decided to send me to Sweden - where in those days I could barely find a decent Chinese restaurant.

I eventually made it to China in 1984 when I started work at the Australian Embassy.

But I did not remain a diplomat.

I wanted to enter politics.

I was elected to Australia's Parliament in 1998 and after serving in parliament for nine years in opposition, my party won the general election last year and I had the honour of becoming 26th Prime Minister of Australia.

Australia and China

Some people think that Australia and China are new friends.

But in fact our history is already long.

Chinese settlers came to Australia first in the nineteenth century.

When gold was discovered in Victoria and Queensland in the 1850s, the first major group of Chinese migrants came to our shores.

We now have over 600,000 people who claim Chinese ancestry.

After English, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) is the most widely spoken language in Australia.

The Chinese community has deep roots in Australia and is an important part of modern Australian society.

It includes people like Dr John Yu, one of Australia's leading surgeons and Australian of the Year in 1996.

And the young mathematician, Terrence Tao, who I met recently.

The flow of people has not all been in one direction.

Some Australians - though a smaller number - have made China their home.

George Morrison is one such person.

Morrison first came to China in 1894.

He lived here for 20 years.

In Australia, he was known as “Chinese Morrison”.

And here in Beijing, during the Republic of China, Wangfujing, home to George Morrison, was known as “Morrison Street”.

It is easy to see why people become fascinated with China.

China has thousands of years of continuous recorded history, but it is a country of constant change.

When I look at the China of 2008, I see a very different country to the one I studied in the late 1970s and the one I lived in during the mid 1980s.

China and the World

The changes in China since the 1970s have been remarkable.

And the change in China has led to a profound evolution in the relationship between our two countries.

China's policy change 30 years ago this year to “reform and open up” was the start of your country's re-connection with the world.

China's companies began trading with others.

China's people began to travel.

China's students began going overseas to study in greater numbers.

The world began to see China, and the people of China began to see the world, in new ways.

This institution, Peking University, through its teaching, research and search for knowledge has also had a profound influence on China's changes.

Its graduates have made a big contribution to your country's engagement with the world.

To many people in China, these changes bring a better and richer life.

People are able to make decisions about where they work, how they live and set their own goals.

They can build their own businesses.

At the same time, there are still many problems in China - problems of poverty, problems of uneven development, problems of pollution, problems of broader human rights.

It is also important to recognise that China's change is having a great impact not just on China, but also on the world.

The scale and pace of China's economic development and social transformation is unprecedented in human history.

Never before have so many people been brought into the global economy in such a short period of time.

Just look at some of the figures.

China is now the world's third-largest trading nation.

Its exports are growing at over 30 per cent per year.

GDP per capita has nearly doubled in the past five years.

People in Australia and around the world recognise that China's economic development is having a profound global impact.

They understand that China's demand for resources is driving global growth.

But China's growth can also cause anxiety.

Some people are concerned about their jobs moving to China.

When people overseas are faced with big changes and uncertainties like these they get nervous.

We all need to appreciate these anxieties and their origins.

Today I would like to make a suggestion.

I think that you - the young people of China, the generation that will see China's full integration into global society, the global economy and the overall global order - have an important role to play in the life of the world.

The global community looks forward to China fully participating in all the institutions of the global rules-based order, including in security, in the economy, in human rights, in the environment.

And we look forward to China making active contributions to the enhancement of that order in the future.

It is a necessary task of responsible global citizenship.

It is a big responsibility you have.

You are the product of China today.

And you are the representatives of China's tomorrow.

You will be the ones who define how the world sees China.

“Harmony” was the dream and hope of that great Chinese thinker and activist Kang Youwei.

The Hundred Days reform movement, like Peking University, also marks its 110th anniversary this year.

Kang proposed a utopian world free of political boundaries.

China has variously articulated its approach to development as one of “peaceful rise”, “peaceful development” or more recently that of a “harmonious world”.

In 2005 the then US Deputy Secretary of State Bob Zoellick spoke for his part of his concept that China would and could become a responsible global stakeholder.

As I said last week in a speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington, it is worthwhile thinking about how to encourage a synthesis of these concepts of a “harmonious world” and the “responsible stakeholder”.

The idea of a “harmonious world” depends on China being a participant in the world order and, along with others, acting in accordance with the rules of that order.

Failing this, “harmony” is impossible to achieve.

“Responsible stakeholder” contains the same idea at its core - China working to maintain and develop the global and regional rules-based order.

This year, as China hosts the Olympics, the eyes of the world will be on you and the city of Beijing.

It will be a chance for China to engage directly with the world, both on the sports field and on the streets of Beijing.

Some have called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics because of recent problems in Tibet.

As I said in London on Sunday, I do not agree.

I believe the Olympics are important for China's continuing engagement with the world.

Australia like most other countries recognises China's sovereignty over Tibet.

But we also believe it is necessary to recognise there are significant human rights problem in Tibet.

The current situation in Tibet is of concern to Australians.

We recognise the need for all parties to avoid violence and find a solution through dialogue.

As a long-standing friend of China I intend to have a straightforward discussion with China's leaders on this.

We wish to see the year 2008 as one of harmony, and celebration - not one of conflict and contention.

Harmony in the Natural Environment

Our shared future is not only one about harmony between nations and peoples.

It is also about harmony with nature - the “Unity of Man and Nature” - a concept with ancient roots in Chinese thought.

We all share responsibility for the future.

One of the big future challenges for Australia and China is climate change.

Australia is committed to strong action domestically and internationally on climate change.

Because we know that climate change is the great moral, economic and environmental challenge of our time - one that all nations have to work together to overcome.

That's why climate change will be an important part of my discussions with the Chinese leadership this week.

It is important that China play an increasingly prominent role on climate change.

An effective global response to climate change will require the active participation of all major emitters.

I also believe it is important for China's own future.

Unless we are successful, China will face increasing pressure on its water supplies, changing rainfall patterns and rising sea levels.

A strong relationship, and a true friendship, are built on the ability to engage in direct, frank and ongoing dialogue about our fundamental interests and future vision.

In the modern, globalised world, we are all connected; connected not only by politics and economics, but also in the air we breathe.

A true friend is one who can be a “zhengyou”, that is a partner who sees beyond immediate benefit to the broader and firm basis for continuing, profound and sincere friendship.

In other words, a true friendship which “offers unflinching advice and counsels restraint” to engage in principled dialogue about matters of contention.

It is the kind of friendship that I know is treasured in China's political tradition.

It is the kind of friendship that I also offer China today.

A Conversation with China's Youth on the Future - Mandarin Translation RTF 215KB | DOC 89KB | PDF 348KB

Transcript 15854