China’s Brutally Pragmatic Response to a Shifting World Order

Kevin Rudd's Op-Ed in The Financial Times

In a December 1, 2016 article for The Financial Times, Kevin Rudd argues that Beijing abhors unpredictability, and that the election of Donald Trump has divided Chinese policymakers and analysts on what lies ahead for Sino-American relations. Below is an excerpt from the article.

China prefers to deal with the devil it knows. Beijing was fully prepared to deal with a President Hillary Clinton but, like the rest of us, the country’s foreign policy establishment is in the dark about what follows the election of Donald Trump. This creates genuine uncertainty in Beijing.

Chinese policy analysts are now working overtime to map out the future of Sino-American relations. Broadly, there are three overlapping schools of thought. China’s response to Mr. Trump will be shaped by whichever prevails. Either way, it will be brutally pragmatic and not remotely ideological.

The first of these schools might simply be called the “instability” school. China has a deeply conservative approach to international policy. It does not like unpredictability. With Mr. Trump, it has ended up with strategic unpredictability at scale.

A second school is decidedly optimistic, for several reasons. Its adherents see the “chaos” of the US election as proof for its domestic population of the unworkability of western liberal democracy. They also see Mr. Trump as a transactional politician, unburdened by the orthodoxies of the US foreign policy, intelligence and human rights establishments. In their view, therefore, he is a leader with whom they have greater potential to cut a deal, either on national security or economic policy.

Read the full article here.