Kevin Rudd, the former Australian Prime Minister and now a senior fellow researching US-Sino relations at Harvard’s Kennedy School, spoke in front of an audience of 1,200 educators at the National Chinese Language Conference in Los Angeles, California on May 8 where he addressed, in part, misperceptions between power nations such as China and the United States.
Rudd, a Mandarin speaker, worked as a diplomat in China in the 1980s and is now heading “a major research effort” the strategic relationship between the US and China at Harvard’s Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs. The project will explore US-China relations and its impact on the global economic, political and strategic order, according to The Australian.
In his speech, Rudd specifically cautioned against these five commonly held notions about China:
1.China is a single monolithic state. Though it may speak with one voice, China is vast and diverse. Language is a vehicle for understanding this complexity.
2. China intends to rule the world. Historically, China has focused on domestic issues. It has been far more concerned about trade than imperial ambition. This was true during the era of the Ming voyages as it is today.
3. China is motivated by wealth, power and, above all, face (面子). The West is also concerned with these things and China is no more concerned than others.
4.There are fundamentally conflicting values between the West and China. There are many values — equality, freedom, solidarity with those across borders, and sustainability — that we increasingly share. Many of the philosophical and historical traditions bear some similarity, and it requires deep understanding and study before we write them off as different.
5. Chinese is too hard to learn. Chinese grammar is easy and straightforward, and far simpler than Germanic languages, for instance. To learn another’s language is a mark of respect and a doorway to understanding. It is do-able even if you start later in life.