Former PM Hawke launches book on China's rise

20 June 2014

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke has launched a new book on the rise of China by ANU Professor Stuart Harris, using his speech to discuss China's economic rise and growing influence in the region.

In his book China's Foreign Policy, Professor Harris said while China is seeking greater international status and respect, it also wants a peaceful world.

Mr Hawke said the book drew on Professor Harris's broad experience of China and his deep intelligence.

"It is a work unburdened and uncomplicated by prejudices and unfounded assumptions that too often characterise writings and commentaries about China," Mr Hawke said.

Hawke said he first visited China in 1978 and would be making his 100th trip to China later this year. Since 1978, he has witnessed China's amazing economic transformation which has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

He said he strongly believed China seeks a peaceful and stable international environment to underpin its economic rise.

"I have one deep and abiding conviction, and that is that an absolutely essential element of this unparalleled economic growth has been a relatively peaceable regional and international environment, and my understanding that China sees the continuation of that situation as absolutely vital to a continuation of its successful performance," Mr Hawke said.

"This is a recurrent theme of Stuart's book - a recurrent theme he emphasises is the importance that China attaches to a peaceable environment."

Professor Harris, who is based at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific and was the head of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1984 to 1988, has spent four decades examining China's foreign relations.

"Over its 60 year history, the People's Republic of China has sought different changes to the international order, being variously critical of capitalism, imperialism, and more recently, hegemonism. It now seeks a more 'harmonious world'," Professor Harris said.

"But China is less interested in changing the world order than in establishing a position of moral superiority.

"From discussions with Chinese scholars and officials over the years, it is clear that the Chinese believe in China's exceptionalism, based on its different history and culture that is perhaps seen as superior to the West.

"So China wants the increased status and respect that acceptance as a great power and recognition of its increased material power will provide, including a bigger role in international institutions."

China's Foreign Policy is available through Wiley.