Friday 10 Apr 2020 | 00:28 | SYDNEY
Friday 10 Apr 2020 | 00:28 | SYDNEY

The Keating speech


Sam Roggeveen


3 July 2009 15:40

For my taste, it's a little too self-congratulatory about his record as Prime Minister. It's also internally contradictory. There's this line about China:

So this great state with its profound sense of self and the wherewithal to make a better life for its citizens, has eased itself into a major role in world affairs. A role, which I believe, will be an altogether positive one for the world at large and for the world immediately around it. (Emphasis added.)

But later there's a longer section that expresses uncertainty about China's rise:

The fact is, Australia does not know and cannot divine what sort of new order might obtain as Chinese economic and military power grows in the face of relative American decline. And complicating that assessment, China rising in the company of other rising regional powers. A region of this kind might turn out to be as peaceful and as prosperous for Australia as the one we have had since the end of the Vietnam War; a place where all powers have a role and where Australia is open to have whatever relationship it wants with any of them. But then again it might not turn out like this. The region may become more problematic.

 I think this section (below) asks the right questions, but I'm not convinced about his answers:

So, we will live in a world of big powers including one big new one. And in time, that big new one may eclipse American power in our region. The issue will be how that eclipse will materialise. Will it be gradual, will the United States graciously cede the space or will it be taken up by a multiplicity of rising states? In the meantime, that other great state, India, will also be on the rise with its huge youthful population. So in all probability we will be looking at some concert of powers in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, rather than a balance of power which has often been the device of an uneasy peace.

I underlined that second 'so' because it suggests a conclusion drawn from the preceding argument. But there's very little in that preceding section to support the conclusion that a concert of powers is more likely than a balance. And in any case, the evidence of nineteenth century Europe indicates that a concert of powers has to be based on a balance. You can have a balance without a concert, but not the other way around.