GL: Good evening, and greetings from Shanghai. My name is Callum Smith, and I am today joined by international statesman, the 26th Prime Minister of Australia and the Chair of the International Finance Forum, the Honourable Mr. Kevin Rudd 陆克文阁下.
LKW: Good to see you.
GL: Today Mr. Rudd launched the Chinese edition of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism Chair’s Report: UN 2030 Building Order in a Fragmenting World. The full report will be released in late September. Mr. Rudd: thank you for joining us today.
LKW: Happy to be here. Happy to be in Shanghai.
GL: Mr. Rudd, you offer this timely report to stimulate debate on whether the United Nations, now over 70 years old, is still ‘fit for purpose’. Is it?
LKW: Well the ideals of the United Nations are as relevant today as they were 70 years ago. If you read the UN charter, the language actually doesn’t date too much at all. The values contained within it are strong. If I was to sum up the mission, it would be along the lines of: the United Nations is designed to protect the intrinsic dignity of human beings, to prevent war, to build a sustainable peace, to deliver on social and economic justice to peoples across the world, and, to act as solidarity when disaster strikes. These are good values, and those are good missions, so the challenge is not one of values, the challenge is do the structure, functions and resourcing of the UN today, fit those values given the reality of the 21st century. And in my report I say changes need to happen, and I detail those in the body of the report.
GL: What do you see as the major challenges facing the world today, and how should we look to the UN in dealing with these issues?
LKW: Well, the United Nations is one institution of global governance, and it’s part of a multilateral system that we’ve evolved since the end of the Second World War. But the realities today are again changing from what they were, even 25 years ago. We have geopolitical changes, we have new tensions between Russia and the United States, between the United States and China, we have new strategic (accomodations) between China and Russia. We have geoeconomic changes, the rise of the Chinese economy, which within a decade or so will be bigger than the American economy. You have this complex dynamic called globalisation, which is going everywhere creating positive forces to bring the world together, but at the same time, encountering negative forces, which are threatening to tear the world apart through nationalism, protectionism and xenophobia, or racism. And then you’ve got this new group of non-state actors like terrorists, and a very weak global economy, and what we fear might become jobless growth in the future with the further automation of industry. That’s the external environment, and its a difficult one for any institution. So the challenge of the UN is how do you accomodate the institution and its structure, its functions and resources to those challenges. I believe you can, it takes a blueprint, it takes strong leadership, but I believe there are a number of core things which can be done to make sure that it is maximally relevant to the challenges of today.
GL: Globalisation has brought us many benefits and a fast-changing world. You raise concerns that it has also delivered a ‘potent cocktail of nationalism, protectionism and xenophobia. How can the UN and forums such as the G20, which is to be held in Hangzhou in the coming days, provide the vision and the support to ensure that global leaders can balance the tensions that sometimes exist between national self-interest and global interests as they chart economic and social policy?
LKW: Well, given the reality of globalisation, the other traditional geopolitical factors that we are looking at, it becomes harder and harder for big countries to come together on common missions. But I believe that China and the United States for example have enough in common interests when it comes to the future strength of the global economy to work together. My experience is that when China and the US work together, a lot happens. I’ve seen it before, not just in climate change but on key decisions which were critical to preventing the global financial crisis from turning into a global recession some six or seven years ago. So, how can they do it? Through the G20 of course, if you’ve got a strong US-China co-operation, it can produce really strong results for the global economy. Within the United Nations, the process of renewal and reinvention and reform of the United Nations requires a number of core states to work together, and of course the entire body 193 states. But again I think there are principles in common, a reaffirmation of the principle of multilateralism, a new doctrine of prevention rather than reaction to crises once they’ve occurred, a new doctrine of what I describe as delivery, that is once decisions are taken, the implementation and the measurement of it, rather than simply writing more reports on what next decision should be taken, before we’ve implemented the last ones. Some might say these are common sense, some might say they are simplistic. But if you get those three things right, other things tend to follow.
GL: China has positioned this year’s G20 as focusing on ‘innovative’, ‘invigorated’, ‘interconnected’ and ‘inclusive’ topics. What excites you most about the priorities identified for this year’s G20? And where are the opportunities for inclusive growth?
LKW: Well, I think China’s four I’s all make sense, let me just go to innovation first. Historically, China has been concerned about its strengths in innovation, and I know a lot of policy effort has gone into this under Prime Minister Li Keqiang, and through the work done by others in the Chinese government. And there is greater and greater evidence of Chinese innovations in technology and the rest, which should give Chinese leaders confidence for the future. But innovation opening up new paths for industries in the future is critical for new jobs. But with one exception. And that is a lot of the new innovations in technology are going to present new industries that don’t require as many jobs as in the past. So what do you do about that? That brings us on to the fourth of the I’s — inclusive. If you’re going to have inclusive economic growth, for China and for the world, it means bringing those folks along with you who may not been the immediate beneficiaries of the sort of innovations we’re seeing in industry, or of the broader process of globalisation. So this will require inclusive thinking and creative thinking about new forms of a social contract, to bring the society with you, and a social contract between rich nations and poor nations as well. If you get those things right, I think you can make real progress on China’s four I’s.
GL: The Hangzhou summit is expected to focus more on the voices of developing countries than those in previous years. Senegal, Chad, Egypt, Laos and Kazakhstan are sending delegations. Why is this significant?
LKW: Well, China itself is still an emerging economy, already its already got low-to-middle income status. And therefore China in its historical development has always placed an emphasis on its relationship with the G77, with the developing world. If you look at Chinese policies in Africa, Chinese policies in parts of Latin America, and certainly elsewhere in Asia, this is reflective of how China sees its role in the system of development more broadly. But there is a further logic to it as well. If the objective is to bring about greater global growth, then where do you grow the global economy? Well, you can grow it in new products, new services and new technologies. You can grow it with new sectors, such as infrastructure, such as green finance, such as a greater role for women in building micro-businesses across the country and across the developing world. But you can also do so in a way which lifts the economies of the developing world to the stage where they are contributing much more to global growth. So it makes sense not just in terms of China’s solidarity with poorer countries, it makes global economic sense too, because if they are performing more strongly, it means that the global economy is performing better too.
GL: Do you have any final words for the G20 in Hangzhou this year.
LKW: I think for the G20, all people of goodwill in the world are wishing China the best for this G20. And there’s a reason for that. One is, it’s good to see China doing it, and because China became a member of the G20 back in 2008 in its high time, they chaired a meeting, particularly given the size of its economy. But secondly, we need a strong outcome for the future of the global economy, which is strong growth, more inclusive growth, and more sustainable growth for the future of the planet as well.
GL: Mr. Rudd, it has been an honour. Thank you for your time and your great insights.
LKW: Happy to be with you.