Originally published in the Cherwell News, 16 October 2017
By Will Dry
A former Prime Minister of Australia will begin studying at Jesus College this term.
Kevin Rudd was the Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010 and again in 2013, and will be reading for a DPhil on the worldview of the Xi Jinping, the President of China.
He spoke to Cherwell earlier this week, while in Oxford to address the Oxford Union. Speaking about political leaders’ careers after politics, Rudd said: “If you are motivated by the world of ideas… it’s a useful exercise to engage – not only in what I would describe as the day-to-day tactical debate – but on the state of our democracy.”
“I think there is a real responsibility for those who have been in the business to actually defend the institution of democracy. I worry about it suffering death by a thousand cuts.”
Rudd also emphasised that you “don’t have to become some adolescent politician – we’re not all designed to become Pitt the Younger”.
His decision to undertake a DPhil at Oxford comes after he became a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School in 2014, where he wrote a paper on the future relations of America and China under Xi Jinping.
He also became the inaugural president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, a political think tank.
As part of his talk at the Oxford Union on Wednesday, Rudd discussed his fascination with Asia – he believes that “we are witnessing a historical turning point” and that “none of this is laid out by the gods”.
He argued that “the West is losing confidence in itself”, and that “China is conscious of this, and conscious of itself representing something else for the future”.
Rudd also labelled President Trump “the definition of an assault on reason” and commented that Brexit and Boris Johnson were part of a worldwide rise in demagoguery.
He weighed in on the recent decision by Balliol JCR to ban the Christian Union from appearing at their Freshers’ Fair. Rudd said:
“The moment we start banning Christian groups from the debate is a very bad day.
“We need to be broad shouldered enough to take opinion from wherever it comes from.”
He also remarked that this generation will be the first to grow up in a post Judeo-Christian world for over 2000 years.
He believes that the Christian settlement gave “place and opportunity for people of no religious belief to fully express themselves.
Now that the boot is on the other foot, I would humbly suggest that there be an open platform for all and that includes voices for the Christian Union”.
Rudd is not the only ex-Prime Minister to spend time conducting research in Oxford. As of March 2017, David Cameron has chaired a commission with the Blavatnik School of Government guiding policy on economic growth in geopolitically fragile situations.
Several other Australian prime ministers have also been educated at Oxford , including Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, and Tony Abbott.
Whilst in government , Rudd was renowned for providing a robust response to the 2008 economic crisis with stimulus packages – Australia was the only major Western economy not to dip into recession.
This was after he led the Labour party to a landslide victory in 2007, with a 23-seat swing towards his party.
He famously delivered a national apology to Indigenous Australians for the ‘stolen generations’.
Rudd was leader of the Australian Labour Party until 2013, when he left politics after losing the election that year.
This will be Rudd’s first degree at Oxford. He previously studied for his undergraduate degree at the Australian National University.
He received a First in Asian Studies, and majored in Chinese language and Chinese history, writing his thesis on democracy activist Wei Jingsheng. Then, in 1980, he continued his studies of Chinese culture at the Mandarin Training Centre in Taipei, Taiwan. Despite missing freshers’ week, Rudd’s views on the Oxford club scene remain unclear.