Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles G'day, my name's Kevin. I'm from Australia. I'm here to help. (Laughter) Tonight, I want to talk about a tale of two cities. One of those cities is called Washington, and the other is called Beijing. Because how these two capitals shape their future and the future of the United States and the future of China doesn't just affect those two countries, it affects all of us in ways, perhaps, we've never thought of: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the fish we eat, the quality of our oceans, the languages we speak in the future, the jobs we have, the political systems we choose, and, of course, the great questions of war and peace. You see that bloke? He's French. His name is Napoleon. A couple of hundred years ago, he made this extraordinary projection: "China is a sleeping lion, and when she awakes, the world will shake." Napoleon got a few things wrong; he got this one absolutely right. Because China is today not just woken up, China has stood up and China is on the march, and the question for us all is where will China go and how do we engage this giant of the 21st century? You start looking at the numbers, they start to confront you in a big way. It's projected that China will become, by whichever measure -- PPP, market exchange rates -- the largest economy in the world over the course of the decade ahead. They're already the largest trading nation, already the largest exporting nation, already the largest manufacturing nation, and they're also the biggest emitters of carbon in the world. America comes second. So if China does become the world's largest economy, think about this: It'll be the first time since this guy was on the throne of England -- George III, not a good friend of Napoleon's -- that in the world we will have as the largest economy a non-English speaking country, a non-Western country, a non-liberal democratic country. And if you don't think that's going to affect the way in which the world happens in the future, then personally, I think you've been smoking something, and it doesn't mean you're from Colorado. So in short, the question we have tonight is, how do we understand this mega-change, which I believe to be the biggest change for the first half of the 21st century? It'll affect so many things. It will go to the absolute core. It's happening quietly. It's happening persistently. It's happening in some senses under the radar, as we are all preoccupied with what's going in Ukraine, what's going on in the Middle East, what's going on with ISIS, what's going on with ISIL, what's happening with the future of our economies. This is a slow and quiet revolution. And with a mega-change comes also a mega-challenge, and the mega-challenge is this: Can these two great countries, China and the United States -- China, the Middle Kingdom, and the United States, Měiguó -- which in Chinese, by the way, means "the beautiful country." Think about that -- that's the name that China has given this country for more than a hundred years. Whether these two great civilizations, these two great countries, can in fact carve out a common future for themselves and for the world? In short, can we carve out a future which is peaceful and mutually prosperous, or are we looking at a great challenge of war or peace? And I have 15 minutes to work through war or peace, which is a little less time than they gave this guy to write a book called "War and Peace." People ask me, why is it that a kid growing up in rural Australia got interested in learning Chinese? Well, there are two reasons for that. Here's the first of them. That's Betsy the cow. Now, Betsy the cow was one of a herd of dairy cattle that I grew up with on a farm in rural Australia. See those hands there? These are not built for farming. So very early on, I discovered that in fact, working in a farm was not designed for me, and China was a very safe remove from any career in Australian farm life. Here's the second reason. That's my mom. Anyone here ever listen to what their mom told them to do? Everyone ever do what their mom told them to do? I rarely did, but what my mom said to me was, one day, she handed me a newspaper, a headline which said, here we have a huge change. And that change is China entering the United Nations. 1971, I had just turned 14 years of age, and she handed me this headline. And she said, "Understand this, learn this, because it's going to affect your future." So being a very good student of history, I decided that the best thing for me to do was, in fact, to go off and learn Chinese. The great thing about learning Chinese is that your Chinese teacher gives you a new name. And so they gave me this name: Kè, which means to overcome or to conquer, and Wén, and that's the character for literature or the arts. Kè Wén, Conqueror of the Classics. Any of you guys called "Kevin"? It's a major lift from being called Kevin to be called Conqueror of the Classics. (Laughter) I've been called Kevin all my life. Have you been called Kevin all your life? Would you prefer to be called Conqueror of the Classics? And so I went off after that and joined the Australian Foreign Service, but here is where pride -- before pride, there always comes a fall. So there I am in the embassy in Beijing, off to the Great Hall of the People with our ambassador, who had asked me to interpret for his first meeting in the Great Hall of the People. And so there was I. If you've been to a Chinese meeting, it's a giant horseshoe. At the head of the horsehoe are the really serious pooh-bahs, and down the end of the horseshoe are the not-so-serious pooh-bahs, the junior woodchucks like me. And so the ambassador began with this inelegant phrase. He said, "China and Australia are currently enjoying a relationship of unprecedented closeness." And I thought to myself, "That sounds clumsy. That sounds odd. I will improve it." Note to file: Never do that. It needed to be a little more elegant, a little more classical, so I rendered it as follows. [In Chinese] There was a big pause on the other side of the room. You could see the giant pooh-bahs at the head of the horseshoe, the blood visibly draining from their faces, and the junior woodchucks at the other end of the horseshoe engaged in peals of unrestrained laughter. Because when I rendered his sentence, "Australia and China are enjoying a relationship of unprecedented closeness," in fact, what I said was that Australia and China were now experiencing fantastic orgasm. (Laughter) That was the last time I was asked to interpret. But in that little story, there's a wisdom, which is, as soon as you think you know something about this extraordinary civilization of 5,000 years of continuing history, there's always something new to learn. History is against us when it comes to the U.S. and China forging a common future together. This guy up here? He's not Chinese and he's not American. He's Greek. His name's Thucydides. He wrote the history of the Peloponnesian Wars. And he made this extraordinary observation about Athens and Sparta. "It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this inspired in Sparta that made war inevitable." And hence, a whole literature about something called the Thucydides Trap. This guy here? He's not American and he's not Greek. He's Chinese. His name is Sun Tzu. He wrote "The Art of War," and if you see his statement underneath, it's along these lines: "Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected." Not looking good so far for China and the United States. This guy is an American. His name's Graham Allison. In fact, he's a teacher at the Kennedy School over there in Boston. He's working on a single project at the moment, which is, does the Thucydides Trap about the inevitably of war between rising powers and established great powers apply to the future of China-U.S. relations? It's a core question. And what Graham has done is explore 15 cases in history since the 1500s to establish what the precedents are. And in 11 out of 15 of them, let me tell you, they've ended in catastrophic war. You may say, "But Kevin -- or Conqueror of the Classics -- that was the past. We live now in a world of interdependence and globalization. It could never happen again." Guess what? The economic historians tell us that in fact, the time which we reached the greatest point of economic integration and globalization was in 1914, just before that happened, World War I, a sobering reflection from history. So if we are engaged in this great question of how China thinks, feels, and positions itself towards the United States, and the reverse, how do we get to the baseline of how these two countries and civilizations can possibly work together? Let me first go to, in fact, China's views of the U.S. and the rest of the West. Number one: China feels as if it's been humiliated at the hands of the West through a hundred years of history, beginning with the Opium Wars. When after that, the Western powers carved China up into little pieces, so that by the time it got to the '20s and '30s, signs like this one appeared on the streets of Shanghai. ["No dogs and Chinese allowed"] How would you feel if you were Chinese, in your own country, if you saw that sign appear? China also believes and feels as if, in the events of 1919, at the Peace Conference in Paris, when Germany's colonies were given back to all sorts of countries around in the world, what about German colonies in China? They were, in fact, given to Japan. When Japan then invaded China in the 1930s the world looked away and was indifferent to what would happen to China. And then, on top of that, the Chinese to this day believe that the United States and the West do not accept the legitimacy of their political system because it's so radically different from those of us who come from liberal democracies, and believe that the United States to this day is seeking to undermine their political system. China also believes that it is being contained by U.S. allies and by those with strategic partnerships with the U.S. right around its periphery. And beyond all that, the Chinese have this feeling in their heart of hearts and in their gut of guts that those of us in the collective West are just too damned arrogant. That is, we don't recognize the problems in our own system, in our politics and our economics, and are very quick to point the finger elsewhere, and believe that, in fact, we in the collective West are guilty of a great bunch of hypocrisy. Of course, in international relations, it's not just the sound of one hand clapping. There's another country too, and that's called the U.S. So how does the U.S. respond to all of the above? The U.S. has a response to each of those. On the question of is the U.S. containing China, they say, "No, look at the history of the Soviet Union. That was containment."