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‘Achilles heel of Xi’s worldview is Chinese economy’s future performance’, says Australia ex-PM Rudd

The former Australian PM, who is in India to launch his book ‘The Avoidable War’, believes that under Xi, China is looking to extend a parallel sphere of influence to the West.

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New Delhi: Former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd said Wednesday that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Achilles’ heel” — as far as his strategic vision and “ideological worldview” are concerned — is the performance of the Chinese economy in the coming years.

“We have all become familiar with the perfect linear trajectory of Chinese economic growth over time… political consequence from that was the burgeoning Chinese private sector,” Rudd said, adding that this has created an “ideological conundrum” for Xi.

Rudd, who was speaking on ‘China Internal Drivers and External Orientation’, organised by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) in Delhi, also said: “It is now inevitable that Xi Jinping will be re-appointed (as China’s president).”

According to the former PM of Australia, who is currently visiting India to launch his new book The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping’s China, “We need to get used to the fact that we would be dealing with Xi Jinping and Xi Jinping’s China for a very long time.”

“He (Xi) has engineered three basic changes in China’s ideology which we should focus on,” Rudd said, explaining that Xi has “re-engineered the ideology and the politics of the Chinese Communist Party towards the Leninist Left” compared to (politician-reformer) Deng Xiaoping or (former president) Hu Jintao.

“This is big change. By that I mean the party rules all… The party’s control over the economy, over organised religion, over arts and culture, has been reasserted,” added Rudd, who also served as Australia’s foreign minister from 2010 to 2012.

He further said that while China never had plans to become a democratic country, earlier there was space for expressing one’s self — but now, that has changed.

According to Rudd, Xi has shifted the centre of gravity of the Chinese economy “decisively” towards the “Marxist Left”.

However, he also said, “I describe Xi Jinping’s ideology as Marxist nationalist, and what he has done is to push the centre of gravity of Chinese nationalism towards the Right… He is not just another Mao, he is not just another Lenin.”

Also read: BJP is remodelling India as a one-party state. And there’s a striking resemblance to China

‘Parallel sphere of influence under Xi’

According to Rudd, China is “pushing back” the US in the maritime domain because “China seeks to extend a parallel sphere of influence under Xi Jinping to its continental periphery to the West. You see this through Central Asia, you see it through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).”

“You see that initiative is focussed not just on Central Asia but as you know South Asia— see what’s happening in Pakistan and Bangladesh, but also in the maritime silk road with Sri Lanka and elsewhere,” he added.

Rudd believes that Xi’s idea of the BRI is to extend into all of Central Asia, including Western Europe itself, to become “a zone of opportunity, a zone of increased economic dependency on China and on Chinese markets for economies which extend across the vast Eurasian landmass in order to induce higher levels of foreign policy compliance as far as China’s long-term interests are concerned”.

Rudd also underlined that China began to become more aggressive during the second term of Hu Jintao’s presidency, which was post-2008, with more military belligerence in South China while empowering the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

He also said that Beijing started to feel “emboldened” under the second tenure (2012 onwards) of the Barack Obama administration in the US, when Washington did not call out Beijing for some of its actions.

Rudd also denied claims that it was Australia which was responsible for walking out of the Quad during its initial stages in 2008-9. He said it was New Delhi that was not ready for it at that time.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

Also read: ‘Joint blockade’, live-fire drills — how China is retaliating after Pelosi’s Taiwan visit

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