One less noted development in Australian foreign policy this year has been the evolution of Kevin Rudd's ideas on the future of the Asian order and the US-China relationship. Since an address to the Asia Society in New York in January, Rudd has delivered a series of speeches around the world in which he has set out a pretty robust and clear model for the future Asian order, which is very far indeed from the flaccid evasions of the Gillard Government.

The latest and in some ways most interesting of these was given at the Brookings in Washington, DC this week. There is lots of interesting stuff here, but the most important is his core message about the future of the US-China relationship and what to do about it. He sounds clear warnings about the trajectory of that relationship, and argues that fixing this requires the negotiation of a new order in Asia: 'a new Pax Pacifica which is neither a new Pax Americana by another name, nor a Pax Sinica.'

What is most significant about this is Rudd's clear acknowledgment that the status quo of US primacy is not sustainable, and that there is a third alternative between the US primacy and Chinese primacy which both powers need to strive to foster if escalating strategic rivalry is to be avoided. Moreover he says that America should take the initiative in trying to reach this accommodation with China.

Some may detect an element of partiality in my analysis. Indeed there is: the view Rudd is putting forward here seems to me very close in its essentials to the argument about the future US-China relationship that I have developed over the last few years. That means it is very far indeed from the Government's declared policy of determined optimism. Rudd deserves credit for this. He would deserve more credit if he contributed these views more robustly to the debate here in Australia.

Photo by Flickr user CeBIT Australia.