The Avoidable War
The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict
between the US and Xi Jinping’s China
Sydney, NSW: Hachette, 2022
Paperback 400pp RRP $34.99
Reviewer: Neville Taylor, September 2023
Kevin Rudd has never been lost for words. Here he has excelled – but with an unbelievably detailed account of China’s philosophy and geopolitical aims. Personal experience and his study of China’s language and culture makes this a very authoritative dissertation on one of the world’s most obvious, and ‘How do we deal with this?’, scenarios.
Major chapters on the history of the US-China relationship and the emerging distrust in recent decades follow. A lack of preparedness to listen to and learn about Chinese language, culture and ambitions by Western countries in the past has fuelled this distrust. Chairman Xi Jinping’s world view has been portrayed as ten concentric circles of interest. From most to least important they are:
the politics of staying in power
securing national unity
ensuring economic prosperity
making economic development environmentally sustainable
modernizing the military
managing China’s neigbourhood
securing China’s maritime periphery
going West – the Belt and Road initiative
increasing Chinese leverage in all continents
changing the global rules-based order
Each of these has been discussed in their own chapter and include the ramifications of each for the West.
A thorough examination of the strategic response to China under Xi’s leadership reveals a huge increase in public perception of China being the number one threat to the US. 2018 saw a major shakeup and hardening in the US attitude towards China. A move from concentration on trade to technology occurred, and the right of exercising navigational passage through the South China Sea became the norm. The politics of China’s Twentieth Party Congress have locked Xi into a path that may or may not lead to China’s best interests. Since Rudd’s writing in 2022, economic growth and the level of youth unemployment have become two areas of concern for Xi.
Rudd sees the current decade as one fraught with danger. He poses ten scenarios (five of which do not involve conflict) and the potential for even more combinations of them. His final chapter sees him putting the case for his solution of ‘managed strategic competition’.
This is a formidable treatise by one of the West’s most-highly credentialed and respected commentators on Chinese matters. Well-written with an excellent Index, this could be regarded as a text for anyone studying this aspect of international relations.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.