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Kevin Rudd has opportunity to further deepen China ties

2013-06-27 14:50 Xinhua Web Editor: Mo Hong'e

When news broke Wednesday that Kevin Rudd, a former Australian prime minister, had won a leadership vote in the ruling Labor Party, many Chinese netizens appeared really excited.

Rudd, one of the few leaders of major Western countries who can speak fluent Chinese, has a sizable fan base on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging service. By Thursday, the number of his followers has exceeded 370,000.

Young Chinese Internet users are particularly fond of him. His family pictures and personal anecdotes have been reposted hundreds of times.

Despite the apparent cultural bond, China-Australia relations did not go all that well when Ruddy was Australian prime minister between December 2007 and June 2010. Many Chinese still remember his sometime harsh criticism of China.

But things do change. In Rudd's case, he has become a maturer and more seasoned leader since his humiliating defeat in a power struggle with outgoing Prime Minister Julia Gillard within Labor Party in 2010.

Meanwhile, the China-Australia relationship has also evolved in the past few years. Thanks to years of efforts, Australia has become better adapted to its unique role as both a staunch security ally of the United States and an important economic partner of China.

Gillard should be lauded for her continuous efforts to build a strong and dynamic relationship between Australia and China.

It is worth noting that Rudd takes over a government that has clearly said Australia and China, despite their different political systems, are partners instead of adversaries.

Based on Gillard's achievements, Rudd has the opportunity to further deepen ties with China.

First of all, Australia needs to appreciate that it is rather a blessing, not a curse, to have strong ties at the same time with the two largest economies in the world.

With its strategic location in the Asia-Pacific region and its strong cultural ties with the West, Australia, instead of falling victim to the myth of China-US rivalry by choosing one side, can actually serve as a bridge between Beijing and Washington.

As China and the United States are pursuing a new type of major-country relations featuring mutual trust and win-win cooperation, Australia will find that its cooperation with one of them does not necessarily come at the cost of its ties with the other.

Ideological biases aside, Australia and China have complementary economies. If Australian leaders like Rudd give up the improbable task of lecturing China, the country will secure itself a highly productive partnership with the world's second largest economy.

Given the political developments in Australia, Rudd will face new elections later this year. He may lose his job as prime minister again as polls have consistently shown broad public disappointment with Labor Party.

But as far as Australia-China relations are concerned, it is good to know that the country's political parties seem to share the commitment to cultivating a constructive relationship with China.

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