Don't ask former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to predict the future impact of Donald Trump's impending ascendency to the U.S. Presidency on the world stage.
"As I've said to our Chinese friends recently, 'join the club, comrades, because the rest of the world is trying to figure out exactly where this new presidency will go,'" the former Labor PM told CNN's Richard Quest on Monday, in response to a question about what Canberra might be thinking about the incoming president.
"So I think we're in for at least a couple of months of general uncertainty."
That's putting it lightly.
Trump recently agitated diplomatic norms with China by accepting, and defending, a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan's president.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen called Trump and offered her congratulations. The incoming U.S. President began defending his decision to speak to her in a series of strongly worded tweets that flew in the face of diplomatic tradition.
From strategic patience, let's not proclaim cataclysm on the basis of a tweet or two, or four or sixKevin Rudd
The U.S. broke diplomatic ties with the self-governing island in 1979, when Washington began to recognise Beijing as representing China but retains unofficial ties with Taiwan.
Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2016
The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2016
Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2016
their country (the U.S. doesn't tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don't think so!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2016
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the call between Taiwan's president and Trump was "just a small trick by Taiwan" that he believed would not change U.S. policy toward China, AP reports, citing Hong Kong's Phoenix TV.
Rudd -- who began his career as a diplomat and is a lifelong China watcher -- said China had not risen to Trump's bait and were playing a game of strategic patience. He also cited Trump's own description of unpredictability as having virtue.
The Chinese response still is 'this is a shakedown period, perhaps he's pushing and probing us...' Kevin Rudd
China has two or three views of the President-elect, Rudd said.
"They really don't like strategic uncertainty, the Chinese prefer to know what's the framework, how are we working this, what's the process," he said. "Number two group in China have seen, until at least the past few days, some strategic opportunities -- end of trans-pacific partnership, etc.
"But there's a third group, and I think these guys may be in the ascendancy, and those are the strategic pessimists who say let's look carefully at what candidate Trump has said about the economy and what he's now saying as transition Trump on his way to administration Trump, and that's what's concerning them."