Australia's Place in the
Image Credit: Office of the Prime Minister: Australia (Flickr)

Australia's Place in the "Asian Century"


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.

So it is extraordinary that it has taken so long for Australia to come up with a comprehensive and publicly-articulated plan for dealing with the opportunities and challenges of finding itself close to the world’s new center of economic and strategic gravity.

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.

To understand this project, where it has come from, and where it may take Australia, first consider what an anomalous nation this is.  Australia has distinct strengths, but vulnerabilities as well.

It is the only nation to occupy a whole continent, yet that land, while rich in mineral wealth, is largely arid and can sustain only a small population. It is a developed economy and a huge supplier of resources. Its chief trade and investment relationships are all in Asia, or more precisely the wider Indo-Pacific including the United States.

Australia has a special proximity to Asia. With its unique two-ocean geography, it is well-placed for what is increasingly being recognized as an Indo-Pacific era, in which the Asia that matters globally is not only East Asia but India and its maritime environs as well.

Australia has Western cultural origins and alignments which sometimes continue to hamper its image in Asia. It relies increasingly on Asian immigration, especially now from China and India, to ensure its economy and society keep thriving. Over a quarter of Australians were born overseas, making this country truly a nation of immigrants, much more so proportionately than the United States. Australia increasingly – and proudly – wears an Asian face.

It has vast security interests in its territory and maritime zones, yet only a small population – 23 million – and an advanced but small defense force. It is a U.S. ally yet has close economic and increasingly societal ties with China, its top trading partner.

It has a multicultural society with a stable if lively democratic system. And its federal, democratic and partisan style of politics sometimes struggles to marshal and mobilize national capacities and will to deal with new challenges – an exception being its earlier waves of economic reform in the 1980s and 1990s.

Finally, it is fair to say that many Australians – while well-travelled – have tended to be complacent about the rise of Asia and what it means for their economic and strategic future.

Against this muddled backdrop, the new white paper is, if nothing else, a wake-up call. It correctly urges Australia to get its own house in order as a first step towards flourishing in the Asian era, including through a competitive and diversified economy, education, innovation, social cohesion, infrastructure, environmental management, security and diplomacy.


[...] that terrorism has not gone away.  And it has a more balanced take on the future of Asia than Canberra’s 2012 economic policy blueprint for the Asian Century, which accentuated the positive and downplayed risk.  But watch for the third and final text in [...]

[...] it has a more balanced take on the future of Asia than Canberra’s 2012 economic policy blueprint for the Asian Century, which accentuated the positive and downplayed [...]

Ian R
January 17, 2013 at 07:34

Lots of interesting comment here & a lot that is very ill informed [read "ignorant"]. I admit to a bias here – Australian married to a Singaporean. Compared to a good many places Australia is a good place to live even though most of us do work long hours [average is 46 per week] & in the major cities add an average commute of 1 1/2 hours each day to that – for the benefit of some that would make us TIRED not LAZY. You do not achieve what has been done here in only 225 years without effort.
Australia always looks outwards, I reckon it's because we are deeply aware of how far away from us the rest of the world is – if we don't reach out & try to be a good neighbor / friend we fear being ignored or missing out on anything & everything. Innovation & achievement are central to the national psyche & the national ethos is 'a fair go' – we're hard on ourselves, usually more critical than praising
This new initiative isn't really all that new – it's more of a focusing of what is already happening with ideas of where we'd like to get to & what we'd like to achieve.

December 26, 2012 at 22:31

"I agree with you that my knowledge of Australia is limited, as far as multi-ethnicity is concerned. I've never been to Australia."
so basically your not sure if you know what your talking about hmm seems to be a common issue in your post.
"I leave it to an international jury of agricultural experts and plant gene-tech specialists to suggest and decide what can and cannot be done with Australia's soil potential and climate".
We know the problem which is Australia has poor soils with a layer of salt/brine water underneath.
"But what I did want to point out is that if Israel could turn desert into green, then Australia, should definitely try that"
Israel didn't turn the desert green that is a myth what they did was force the Arab farming communities  off their productive farming lands and said look what we have done.
Australia's problem is  that layer of salt underneath  because  the moment you add water the underground water table rises and soon your soil is covered in salt.

December 14, 2012 at 14:30

wow look john chan the commie lap dog is talking again arf arf arf sit roll play dead say's your owner the red thieves

November 8, 2012 at 23:49

Not surprising given their sporty outdoor culture but australia performed the best in the olympics. read and weep chinabot.

November 8, 2012 at 00:56

John Chan France actually has one of the strongest economies in Europe only slightly behind Germany because of its smaller population. France never had to go through any austerity like the PIIGS you speak of and hasnt even been in a major recession. Actually the French economy will be stronger because our politicians are not corrupt like they are in China. For example Francois Hollande will implement a 75% tax rate on its 1% because we are a fair and free nation.
John Chan how much money does your 1% give back to its country? Oh i forgot the only thing Chinese 1% gives back is massive pollution and corruption, how sad.
Also France has even more influence than britain or germany on the international stage. Just look for example at French influence in Africa and you can see France is playing a leading role with the US in helping to develop Africa into a peaceful developed continent, unlike China which is just causing more trouble in the region.
Finally, France has also just opened up a new military base only a few years ago in the gulf region to help secure peace and prosperity there. If China was such a great peaceful nation, then how come nobody wants any chinese military bases?? Maybe because all the nations know china is a bully?
I hope you respond but i suspect you will simply continue going from article to article to spread more propaganda and lies.

smarty pants
November 8, 2012 at 00:04

Well, how is it that GM and Ford Australia cannot bail out a local supplier ?
What are you speaking about ? Imperialism  your country was founded on the
on the Imperial power of UK

Leonard R.
November 7, 2012 at 19:43

Wow! First time I've read Immanuel Kant cited in The Diplomat…and by an enthusiast of agricultural sciences no less! Well done George Chakko. A memorable entrance. 
Australia as done a lot of good work and been a good neighbor to Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines. It has been a good ambassador for western civilization. I am surprised it hasn't yet become a financial hub for the Far East. It offers indirect access to London New York and the E.U. Maybe HK already occupies that niche. But I wonder about that. 
Ultimately, Australia is an outpost of the West in the Far East. It's place is to offer western advantages in business, education and organizational thinking to its non-western neighbors. 

John Chan
November 7, 2012 at 11:05

“China’s destiny to be contained” is like the French destiny to play second fiddle to the English and the German?
Helping France avoiding to end like the PIIGS in the current Europe’s economic crisis is more useful than bad mouthing China out of jealousy, resentment and fear.
China is the biggest economy and the best performer in the Olympics Games in Asia and Europe. Comparing to China, France really is the sickman of Europe!!

Ser Gregor Clegane
November 7, 2012 at 09:20

"original population of Australia nearer and nearer to extinction. Poor Australia."
What original population are you talking about? There have been several large non-white migrations to Australia in the last 40 thousand years and have all driven out the people before them. The present day aborigines were in no way related to the original inhabitants but drove them out just like the White man did.  This 'flood' of Asian immigration also contributes far greater than the indigenous populations. In a world with a rapidly growing population and scarcer and scarcer land, the Aborigionals are going to have to improve their act if they want to remain a cultural force in the world. Australia would be the poorer if it missed out on the 'Asian flood' as you call it.

Luke Nguyen
November 6, 2012 at 19:45

So Australia will be changed to Australasian now….

Ser Gregor Clegane
November 6, 2012 at 17:10

Yeah its not exactly pc but your right ghanian. Muslim immigration leads to divided/fragmented communities and larger counter terrorism bills. Maybe if religious schools were banned it would be better but unfortunately this won't happen. Indian and Chinese immigrants are flocking to come, integrate easily and contribute greatly. Why take the risk and expense when you don't need to.
Yours sincerely,
The Mountain that Rides

US Trolls Running Amok
November 6, 2012 at 13:15

Nothing surprising from the many brainless, moronic lying US trolls on this blog.  BS propaganda against anyone who holds a view contrary to US imperialistic interests, are their forte. They will even do the same about their grandmothers if they dnon't like what they say about the emperors in Washington.

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