Rudd Says People Too Excited by China Vice President Absence

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping, China's vice president. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Kevin Rudd, Australia’s former prime minister, dismissed speculation about Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s absence from public events, saying it was normal for such a figure not to attend the World Economic Forum in Tianjin.

“I think people are getting themselves excessively excited by this,” Rudd, a Chinese-speaking former diplomat, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television from the Chinese city. “It’s completely normal that Xi Jinping would not be at an occasion like this and I think people frankly need to take a long, strong, hot cup of tea and just calm down a bit.”

Xi’s absence from public events for more than a week fueled speculation about the health of the leading candidate to succeed President Hu Jintao in a once-in-a-decade leadership change. Secrecy surrounding China’s leadership, combined with the ouster of Politburo member Bo Xilai earlier this year, has left investors with limited information on who’ll be overseeing the world’s second-biggest economy.

The Communist Party has yet to release the dates for the gathering anticipated in coming weeks where the next generation of leaders will be appointed.

Rudd, who headed the government from 2007 to 2010, said Australia’s economy was well positioned to withstand declining commodity prices amid a “change in the structure of Chinese demand for energy and raw materials.”

“You still have hundreds of millions of people emerging into Chinese middle classes,” Rudd said. “There will continue to be strong demand for resources, but anyone who expects commodity prices to remain there or a particular level over a long period of time is not a keen student of the history of commodity prices.”

Commodities Boom

While Australia’s economy grew about 4 percent in the first half on the strength of resource-industry investment and consumer spending, a plunge in the price of iron ore, the nation’s biggest export, and a high currency prompted mining companies including BHP Billiton Ltd. and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. to put off projects and cut employees in the past month.

China, Australia’s biggest trading partner, expanded 7.6 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, the slowest pace in three years, after the government moved to counter inflation and surging property prices in the wake of the 2008 stimulus.

Since speaking at the Party School of the Communist Party on Sept. 1, Xi canceled a Sept. 5 meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After foreign journalists in Beijing were told the same day that Xi would meet Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Sept. 10, the event wasn’t included in an official agenda distributed Sept. 7. The foreign ministry said yesterday no such meeting was planned.

“I’ve been following Chinese politics for about 30 years,” Rudd said. “It’s entirely normal,” he said of Xi’s absence from the forum.

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