Australia’s Place in the “Asian Century”

Cultural imperialism is reshaping the Australian culture while its economic and miltary clout is forcing it to pivot towards the Asian giant and distance itself further from the United States.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government has developed a bold plan for embracing the “Asian Century.” Can words be turned into deeds?

The Asian century is rich, restless and already 12 years old. And, of all nations, Australia stands to be profoundly affected by this era of rapid change – whether the region resolves into a golden age of prosperity and human development or collapses in strategic turmoil.

The good news is that the Australian Government, under Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard, has at last done that, launching an ambitious policy white paper titled Australia in the Asian Century on October 28th.

Within Australia, the report is commanding broad support and respect from the many constituencies and sectors that see a need to deepen engagement with Asia – ranging from business to education to the former political leaders and officials who have dedicated themselves to regional diplomacy for decades. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who drove the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation process in the late 1980s, was notable among the luminaries at the paper’s launch.

It thankfully recognizes that any ‘Asian’ century is really an Asia-Pacific or even Indo-Pacific age. The United States remains the indispensable strategic player and the region’s trade and energy arteries span the Indian Ocean as well as the Pacific.

In other words, with this white paper Canberra has made it clear that it does not see the Asian century exclusively as China’s century. This should help neutralize voices that have claimed Australia was falling into China’s geopolitical orbit at the expense of its other relationships.

In the end, Australia would be well-advised to do almost all the things the white paper calls for and more – and the more is to properly resource its diplomats and defense force. These steps make sense regardless of whether the Asian century turns out for better or worse. It is odd that Canberra’s new Asia plan was not more forthright in saying so.

Full article: Australia’s Place in the “Asian Century” (The Diplomat)

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