• The Avoidable War

  • The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping's China
  • By: Kevin Rudd
  • Narrated by: Kevin Rudd, Rafe Beckley
  • Length: 16 hrs and 9 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (163 ratings)

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The Avoidable War

By: Kevin Rudd
Narrated by: Kevin Rudd,Rafe Beckley
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Publisher's Summary

A war between China and the US would be catastrophic, deadly, and destructive. Unfortunately, it is no longer unthinkable. 

The relationship between the US and China, the world’s two superpowers, is peculiarly volatile. It rests on a seismic fault - of cultural misunderstanding, historical grievance, and ideological incompatibility. No other nations are so quick to offend and be offended. Their militaries play a dangerous game of chicken, corporations steal intellectual property, intelligence satellites peer, and AI technicians plot. The capacity for either country to cross a fatal line grows daily. 

Kevin Rudd, a former Australian prime minister who has studied, lived in, and worked with China for more than forty years, is one of the very few people who can offer real insight into the mindsets of the leadership whose judgment will determine if a war will be fought. The Avoidable War demystifies the actions of both sides, explaining and translating them for the benefit of the other. Geopolitical disaster is still avoidable, but only if these two giants can find a way to coexist without betraying their core interests through what Rudd calls “managed strategic competition.” Should they fail, down that path lies the possibility of a war that could rewrite the future of both countries, and the world.

©2022 Kevin Rudd (P)2022 PublicAffairs
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

“A lifelong student of China, Kevin Rudd has become one of today’s most thoughtful analysts of China’s development. The Avoidable War focuses on the signal challenge posed by China’s evolution to America and to world order. Can the US and China avoid sleepwalking into a conflict? Rudd offers constructive steps for the two powers to stabilize their relations.” (Henry A. Kissinger)

“Wise counsel from a seasoned statesman who recognizes the real risk of catastrophic war and illuminates a promising path the US and China could take to avoid it.” (Graham Allison, Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, and author of Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?)

“An extraordinary tour de force that analyzes the most important geopolitical relationship of the 21st-century. Organized, like Dante’s Inferno, into concentric circles that describe in brilliant detail the challenges ahead and a timely prescription to avoid a catastrophe. Let us truly hope that we can indeed avoid a war that looms upon us like a dark tower, threatening all the progress we have made.” (Admiral James Stavridis, 16th supreme Allied commander of NATO, former dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University) 

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By far the best book on China

You may not agree with the 10 concentric circle framework, personally I think it helps the structure of the book more than the analysis itself, but the content is first rate. As a Chinese reasonably literate in domestic politics, I am impressed by Mr. Rudd’s insights. Highly recommended if you want to improve your odds in getting the next decade right.

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This is a must read book

As the tension rise between the USA and CPR and ratchet up in a dangerous way a more widespread understanding of what the thinking and capacities on both side of the divide is critical for the human race’s continuance and no better person to impart this than Kevin Rudd. Twice Prime minister of Australia. As a fluent Mandarin speaker who has sat down with Xi and can read CPR policy papers and knows America’s ever lurching policies towards the CPR just as well he is some one who writes with authority, gravitas, and hope. My two years working in China working for an American Company between 1997 and 1999 leads me to think his words ring true. I also share his affection for the Chinese people. For me as a proud if circumspect American I have a great affection for the human race as a whole and hope fervently for it’s survival. This book and the thinking and fact collection it represents is an important step in the direction of human global survival.

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Strongly recommend

This was an excellent explanation of the struggle between China and US. Kevin Rudd has written a book both informative and insightful.

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Comprehensive but easy to understand and listen to

Truly an amazingly thought out and constructed piece of work. Kevi Rudd's experience and thoughtfulness in laying out this most important international relationship frames potential blueprints for the alternative futures of Sino/American relationships now and in years to come. Should be required reading for senior political and military staff in the US.

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  • 10-30-22

Excellent strategic analysis of the Two Powers

The ability to execute the proposed Strategic Competition model between the US and China, will require diplomacy from a respective friend.
Minus a joint collaboration, there will be a war.

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A Subtle, Focused Book

Not everyone will want to read a book like this; it’s not classic beach read material. But if you were in any way considering reading this book, you should read it.

It was published before the war in Ukraine and the most recent cracks in China’s zero COVID policy. To that extent, it may be a half beat behind recent trends in US-Taiwan rhetoric/policy, the weakening of Russian international posture, and shifts in both the unity and posture of the European Union and NATO. Still, this sober, scary, nuanced, and hopeful book is about as comprehensive and up to date as one could ask for.

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Well written and well researched, but naive in its conclusions

The author presents a well researched and fairly unbiased overview of the current situation vis a vis the U.S. and China. The situation is truly frightening, to say the least.

The author exchanged his thoughtful and well researched tone for wishful thinking in the final chapters where he lays out what the US and China can do to prevent war. Indeed, some of the authors conclusions are naive in the extreme (which he himself admits). His suggestion major domestic structural reforms in the US and China that would counter major long term political trends in each country.

The author makes clear that war between China and the west should be avoided. One avenue that the author points out, but doesn’t explore is that the US still has a quickly closing window to economically ruin the CCP while it’s vulnerable. Contrary to the authors obvious personal bias, it appears that in 2018 Trump might have stumbled onto the right way to deal with China after all; albeit for different reasons.

A less naive assessment of the facts presented in this book would lead a non-Chinese national reader to conclude that China has the same ideological, national, territorial and geo-political goals as the USSR. Therefore the US and the free world is left with two choices:
1. Immediately economically strangle the evil empire like Reagan did to the USSR or
2. Prepare to bend the knee with the rest of the world to our new glorious overlords

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Crucial reading for the coming decades

This is a thoroughly researched, articulate account of historical, contemporary and future considerations for the relationship and international impact of Chinese and American policy and behavior. Most significant are the recommendations by author Kevin Rudd to avoid the unimaginable consequences of war.

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Essential Reading for Understanding China and Xi

Expert sinologist and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has written a stunning tour de force on developing Chinese foreign policy under Xi Jinping and the existential challenges it presents for Asia, Europe and the US. Rudd narrates the book and is fluent in Mandarin so there are none of the amateurish mistakes one sometimes encounters in audiobooks on China.

Rudd starts out by outlining the key ten concentric circles of current Chinese policy which include, fundamentally for Xi, staying in power personally and keeping China under tightened control of the Chinese Communist Party and an increasingly authoritarian surveillance state which has deemphasized and even prohibited talk of human rights and democracy. Rudd makes crystal clear Xi’s goals in a way that is hardly subject to dispute and lays out a remarkably thoughtful and well considered analysis of Xi’s future plans which include building a Chinese military that can defeat the US in combat in Asia, can retake Taiwan even if defended by the US, Australia and Japan and extending China’s maritime presence in the South and East China Sea to the exclusion of all other countries which might challenge its power.

Rudd points out that after Xi is confirmed as effective dictator for life at the November 2022 Party Congress, Xi expects to move advance his military goals toward reclaiming Taiwan in the late 2020s or early 2030s when he is still in power. At the same time, China has through its Belt and Road projects and numerous Asian diplomatic and economic and UN initiatives filled the power vacuum left by the US’s abandonment of its traditional international commitments and role to form new alliances from which the US is effectively excluded.

Rudd also outlines in detail the tremendous damage done to the US international position and diplomatic alliances by the US government’s chaotic withdrawal or disruption of its international alliances under the Trump Administration’s grotesque diplomatic incompetence which left in tatters so many important prior US alliances. The damage has been irreparable but the US still has some opportunities to strengthen new alliances like the Quad to restrain Chinese expansion. But we are far behind both in planning and execution of the necessary steps to prevent China from pushing out the US and becoming the world’s greatest power. It is not too late to respond, but the US appears to lack the determination and focus to do what is necessary while Xi is laser focused on getting what he wants and on pushing US power out of Asia.

At the end of the book Rudd outlines in detail what he sees as the necessary steps to protect Taiwan and contain Chinese power within reasonable limits but acknowledges this could easily be a losing battle. The defense and foreign ministers of every North American, European and Asian government should read this book. It is important and it is alarming.

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Important Book

I hope that all American and Chinese leaders read or listen to this book by Kevin Rudd. He presents one of the few avenues to avoid all of the conflict between China and the United States.

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  • Ed L
  • 04-28-22

Excellent!

An honest and well-balanced assessment of the challenges facing Sino-US relations with a suggested roadmap to manage conflicting interests and ward off possible Armageddon.

1 person found this helpful