Australia has released a White Paper (320 pages) on its position in relation to the Asian Century. An Executive Summary is here. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Gillard on Sunday. It provides road-map for Australia to navigate The Asian Century. For many years Australia has lived in a cosy western bubble but now must face new exciting challenges.
All children in primary school will be given the opportunity to learn at least one Asian language. The expansion of free trade agreements is canvassed.
The white paper focused strongly on Indonesia – there will be a new Australian consulate, an ambassador to ASEAN to be based in Jakarta, 1000 extra work and holiday visa places and Indonesian language study for Australian students.
Planning for an Australian Embassy in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) and consulates in Shenyang (China), Phuket (Thailand) and eastern Indonesia. Pity Chiang Mai consulate is not included!
Australia’s geographic proximity, depth of skills, stable institutions and forward-looking policy settings place it in a unique position to take advantage of the opportunities of the growing dominance of Asian politics and culture.
Australia is unique in having an Asian born Cabinet Minister. Penny Wong is the Minister for Finance and Deregulation.
Reception by Asian countries has been generally favourable.
Daniel Sparingga, a political sociologist and aide to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, described the Gillard government’s policy as ”a very strategic move”. ”It will bring Indonesia and Australia even closer to a point where our given differences will no longer stand in the way of our thriving relations,” he told The Age.
Several Chinese state media outlets ran short reports on the white paper, broadly supportive, while the website of China Radio International reported that Canberra had acknowledged that it was ”impractical” to stop China’s military growth.
This comment raises another issue. The USA seems to have trouble coping with China gaining world financial dominance and military power which may lead to conflict between the two nations.Although Australia has strong millitary ties with the USA, it is also developing alliances and trade agreements with Asian nations. A bit each way, perhaps!