Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 18:33 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 18:33 | SYDNEY

More on the definition of 'Asia'


Sam Roggeveen


5 April 2012 11:50

Two recent pieces that take our discussion forward, the first by Daniel Flitton at The Age:

...the government seems unable to decide whether America belongs in the region - switching again from promising an ''Asian century'' back to an ''Asia-Pacific'' one.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year commissioned a strategic blueprint to be known as the ''Australia in the Asian Century'' white paper, changing the language from Labor's 2009 defence white paper ''Defending Australia in the Asia-Pacific Century'', a phrase that links the US to the region...(Defence Minister) Mr Smith yesterday switched back to the old formula, saying a review of Australia's military standing ''points to the Asia-Pacific Century as reinforcing the need for a force posture that can support operations in Australia's northern and western approaches,'' he said.

The second is by former La Trobe University Vice Chancellor Brian Stoddart, who writes on his blog:

...the framing of the Henry review into “Asia” immediately runs into the very line that intellectuals have held for a long time, that there is not essentially one “Asia” but several “Asias”, and that view prevails even if Lowy Institute Director Michael Wesley thinks otherwise. With its trade and security focus, the Henry group (that has just one academic on it but that has fielded submissions from many more) will by definition look to the stronger players: Singapore (with which Australia is comfortable), Vietnam (more or less so), Malaysia (less so), Thailand (reasonably so) and then the rest fall into a more awkward basket, especially Cambodia, Lao and Myanmar.

This immediately highlights a danger for Australia: an undue focus on trade and profit will jeopardise a longer term, more productive platform in Asia, as demonstrated by the India case. Official Australia has had an uneasy relationship with India, while unofficial Australia has embraced the place rather more, and now the rising economic status of India has made it a natural target for Australia. In all of that, the Indian reaction to Australia’s new and rather sudden interest has been cooler than anticipated, it might be said, and to the confusion of some in the Australian government.

The answer is simple: India like all other “Asian” players is looking for a partnership based on respect and long term commitment, and that is something Australia has had difficulty in fashioning for a very long time. In many Asian settings we have come to be regarded as short term opportunists rather than long term colleagues, and that is a sentiment that the Henry Review and whatever policy directives flow from it will need to deal with head-on and quickly.