In wide-ranging talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rudd also described Chinese leaders as “paranoid” about Taiwan and Tibet and said that his push for a new Asia-Pacific body was designed to contain Chinese influence.
The memo detailing a March 2009 lunch conversation between Rudd, who was then prime minister, and Clinton in Washington states that the Australian leader described himself a “brutal realist on China”.
It said Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat who was once posted to Beijing, argued for “multilateral engagement with bilateral vigor” in China.
He called for “integrating China effectively into the international community and allowing it to demonstrate greater responsibility, all while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong,” the cable states.
The Australian government refused to comment on the cable, which reveals Clinton affirmed Washington’s desire for a successful China, with “a rising standard of living and improving democracy at a pace Chinese leaders could tolerate”.
The cable said the US wanted China to take greater responsibility in the global economic sphere, build a better social safety net for its citizens, and a better regulatory framework for the goods it manufactures.
But Clinton also questioned the challenges arising from Beijing’s growing economic clout, asking, “How do you deal toughly with your banker?” it said.
Rudd reviewed Chinese leaders for Clinton, saying President Hu Jintao “is no (predecessor) Jiang Zemin” and opining that Hu’s likely successor Xi Jinping could rise above his colleagues, thanks in part to his family’s military connections.
On Taiwan, Rudd said that the feelings of Chinese leaders were “sub-rational and deeply emotional” while hard-line policies on Tibet were designed to send messages to other ethnic minorities.
Rudd told Clinton he had urged China to agree to a “small ‘a’ autonomy” deal with the Dalai Lama on Tibet but that he saw little prospect of this idea succeeding.
Rudd also revealed that his thinking behind his ambitious Asia-Pacific Community was mostly to ensure Chinese dominance in the region did not result in “an Asia without the United States”.
He said Australian intelligence kept a close watch on China’s military modernization, and indicated that a planned strengthening of Australia’s naval capability was “a response to China’s growing ability to project force”.
Pakistan and Afghanistan were also discussed by the leaders, according to the memo, one of some 250,000 diplomatic US cables to be released by the whistleblowing WikiLeaks website.
Rudd said Australia would be prepared to offer special operations and counterinsurgency help to Pakistan should it be requested, noting that success in war-torn Afghanistan would unravel if Pakistan fell apart.
The Australian government has previously condemned the release of all the cables and said it would support any US law enforcement moves against the whistleblowing organisation founded by Australian-born hacker Julian Assange.