John is now out of government and has allowed me to share with you a speech he gave at an internal Australian government seminar in August 2017. I knew John a little in Beijing and besides having tremendous respect for his work, and especially his access to Princelings at a level I am not sure any other foreign correspondent has ever had, I always found him to be a reasoned and thoughtful chronicler of the PRC.
Some now say he has become a China hawk, but I see it as more the evolution of a sophisticated China watcher who believes in seeking truth from facts, no matter how difficult it may be to accept the reality of the direction Xi and the CCP appear to be taking China. This is a trajectory I have found myself on, along with many of the most experienced foreign China watchers I know.
I wish I could say I find John’s arguments unconvincing, but in fact they only seem more accurate now, over a year after the 19th Party Congress, than they did when he gave this talk in 2017.