ABSTRACT

Courtesy of Wikileaks (see Garnaut 2010), those concerned with the future path of China’s rise have been handed their central research question on a platter: ‘How do you deal toughly with your banker?’ This neat blend of precision and subtlety was served up to Kevin Rudd when he was Australian Prime Minister by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in early 2009. And he responded with the formula he had spent many years rehearsing during his own rise to power – ‘multilateral engagement with bilateral vigor’ in the short term, backed up by preparations to use force if things ultimately go wrong (see Kelly 2010). Compared to Rudd’s boilerplate response, Clinton’s question remains highly original – so original, indeed, that a cursory glance back over the last century suggests only two previous occasions when it has even been asked.