Australia's Place in the "Asian Century"  (Page 4 of 4)

Still, for anyone who cares about Australia’s links with its Indo-Pacific neighborhood, the new document is a worthy vision.

The main areas of disappointment and skepticism are about money, timing and the paper’s lopsided assessments of strategic risk.

The white paper rightly says that adapting Australia to the Asian century – economically, strategically and at the level of society – will be the work of a generation.  The problem, though, is that the clock has been ticking for years.

The Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments – and their oppositions – all share blame for the country’s too-often delayed, uncoordinated and underfunded responses to a changing Asia, even while each can claim credit for elements of the new paper’s strategy.

The hard work lies ahead. That is something Australians might yet take in their stride, except that girding a nation for a radically changed world will not be cheap.

And, like Kevin Rudd’s 2009 Defense White Paper – with ambitious force structure proposals that seem to be fast disappearing down a political memory hole – Canberra’s Asian century white paper is bold on vision and shy on costs.

There is little acknowledgement that Australia simply will not be able to hold its own in a fast-changing Asia without greater investment in less fashionable instruments of policy like its diplomatic network and defense force. And observers of the Australian defense debate are well aware that the nation’s military faces currently relative decline in its budget, to the lowest proportion of GDP since the 1930s, around 1.6 percent.

Indeed, the Asian century white paper is at its weakest when coming to terms with the nation’s deeply uncertain strategic environment.

Admittedly there is some sound strategic analysis, politely worded so as to avoid needless offense, about how Asia’s future may end up much less rosy than the white paper’s economically-driven optimism would suggest.

The possibilities of confrontation or war between China and the United States, China and its neighbors or India and Pakistan are considered real. But because we all have so much to lose, and governments are presumably rational, a strategic breakdown is deemed unlikely. And the role of deterrence in maintaining stability is not really stated.

To be sure, there are some sensible security recommendations. An emphasis is placed on building diplomatic architecture like the East Asia Summit. Prudently, the paper recommends Australia do more to build the infrastructure of communications and cooperation among the region’s defense forces to stop an incident somewhere like the South China Sea from getting out of hand.  The Australian navy can play a useful role here, given its traditions of defense diplomacy with all the region’s powers.

But the paper does little to countenance the prospect that the very economic virtue of the Asian century – the rising wealth, influence and expectations of the massive middle classes in China and India – could prove its strategic undoing.  The role of overconfident middle-class nationalism in driving tensions among Asia’s strong states gets scant play.

There is also little hint at plausible strategic shocks from the Chinese polity’s one-party brittleness, India’s potential failure to meet the needs of its 600 million citizens under the age of 25 or a feasibly unpleasant shift in Indonesian politics.

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.

Whatever else, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has set some very high benchmarks by which her own and subsequent Australian governments will be measured in coming to terms with a changing Asia. Now the real test begins.

Rory Medcalf is director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute, Sydney, and a Fellow at the Australia-India Institute.

Comments
34

[...] 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.

Tim
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.
 
 
 

shizzoyoshinaka
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

ghantan
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.

http://www.theage.com.au/business/how-australia-topped-the-medal-tally-20120814-245vf.html

Jean-Paul
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 http://www.cfr.org/france/french-military-africa/p12578 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

@Jean-Paul,
“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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