Understanding the significance of the Asian Century. Andrea Haefner and Professor Andrew O Neill Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University

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1 Understanding the significance of the Asian Century Andrea Haefner and Professor Andrew O Neill Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University

2 Griffith MBA Values If you undertake the Griffith MBA you will graduate with an understanding of responsible leadership, sustainable business practices and what it means to work globally within the Asian Century - as such you will be equipped to be an effective businessperson in the 21 st century. Responsible leadership Giving our students the knowledge and skills and values to encourage them to become responsible leaders in the future, with a concern for planet and people as well as profit. Sustainable business practices Researching, developing and promoting social, financial and environmental approaches that lead to sustainable businesses and communities. Global orientation Providing education and research that recognises we operate in a fast-changing global environment, and that prepares global citizens, with a special focus on the Asia Pacific region.

3 Introduction No topic in recent times has received more coverage than the question of how Australia positions itself for the Asian Century. The rapid rise of Asia has witnessed a major power shift from west to east of the international system. Europe and North America are still important players in international relations, but in the early part of the 21 st century, Asia is the engine room of global growth. The 21st century will be the first in several hundred years where the importance of the trans- Atlantic will shift to the significance of the trans-pacific as the centre for geopolitics and geoeconomics moves from Europe to Asia, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Asia is the most populous region in the world and is home to 3.8 billion people, over half the world's population. Economically, Australia signed a free trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2011, combining a population of more than 600 million people and a GDP of US$3.3 trillion. Further, China and India have in the last 20 years nearly tripled their share of the global economy and by 2025 the Asian region will account for almost half of the world s output. In a few years, Asia will not only be the world s largest producer of goods and services, but also the world s largest consumer. Asia s rise has been distinguished by significant shifts in power relativities that foreshadow potentially ground breaking power transitions among the region s leading states in the twenty-first century. For most of the postwar era, it was unquestioned that North America and Europe, and from the 1960s, Japan, would drive economic growth and prosperity globally. By the 1980s it was clear that a shift was well underway. Despite the dramatic slowdown in Japan s economic growth in the late 1980s, China s meteoric rise in the wake of the Open Door policy being announced in 1978, and India s impressive growth rates, have provided the foundation for Asia s resurgence as the most dynamic economic region in the contemporary international system. Over the past two decades, Europe s gradual decline in economic terms has been in stark contrast to Asia s rapid economic rise. This was underscored by Asia s apparent resilience in the face of the 2008 global financial crisis and the subsequent threat to the Eurozone triggered by poor economic management among some European states. 1

4 Australia s engagement with Asia As the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper points out, this transformative shift presents Australia with an unprecedented set of opportunities, given its proximity to the region. But Asia s rise also poses fundamental challenges for a range of sectors across Australia, including business and industry, education, governments, and related nongovernment organisations. Looking at the authoritative Asialink Index for measuring Australia s engagement in Asia across the components of trade, investment, research and business development, education, tourism, migration, and humanitarian assistance, the extent of the growth in Australia s regional engagement over the past twenty years has been striking. We know that trade flows between Australia and Asia have increased exponentially since 1990 a roughly fourfold increase. But less well known have been the quantum leaps in research and business development (more than a threefold increase), education (almost a sixfold increase), tourism (a fourfold increase), and perhaps surprisingly, migration, which has leapt by 25% since One of the really interesting dimensions of Australia s deeper Asian engagement since the end of the Cold War has been the organic nature of its evolution that is it to say, nongovernment entities, from SMEs to individual students, have led the way. Deeper engagement in Asia has had significant implications for Australia domestically. The impact on the Australian economy of the commodity-led trading relationship with Asia, which has been underscored by the China-led boom, is well known. But meaningful engagement in other spheres has had equally striking impacts. Large-scale Asian immigration since the 1960s has been the single major factor shaping modern multiculturalism in Australia, and the massive influx of predominantly Asian students into Australia s tertiary institutions has contributed to reshaping the nation s higher education system in myriad ways. Although several of the key indicators of Asia literacy in Australia most notably language training make for unimpressive reading, as a nation Australia remains deeply engaged in Asia in spite of cultural insularity among many Australians. 2

5 The Asian Century White Paper The Asia White Paper is the most substantial statement of any Australian Government since 1901 of how this country sees it region. The document successfully attempts to present a whole-of-government perspective on the challenges and opportunities for Australia in Asia. The White Paper maps out twenty-five national objectives for These range from improving workforce skills and education nationally, through to stronger cultural links with Asian countries. Yet the document downplays the reality that the capacity for Australia to shape its destiny remains in large part contingent on events beyond our control. A severe contraction in Chinese economic growth, rising uncertainty about America s continued influence in the context of a major fiscal crisis in the US, and the real potential for rising authoritarianism in Indonesia following the country s 2014 elections are all possible and would pose serious challenges to Australia s future prosperity and security. The drive for budget surpluses by both major political parties in an increasingly austere fiscal climate means that the funding environment is not likely to become more favourable to achieving the ambitious objectives contained in the White Paper. Irrespective of whether future Governments seek to implement all of the White Paper s recommendations, the exercise of putting it together has been a productive one. In addition to the document itself being a useful analytical resource, the White Paper web site houses an impressive repository of information on Asia across the economic, social, and political spheres of engagement. As a consequence of the White Paper exercise we know more about the broad and deep nature of Australia s regional engagement, just how central Asia is to the country s prosperity, and how dependent we are on the region for our future security and prosperity. Australia s future challenges in Asia Australia s ties with the Asia Pacific region in the past have been complex due to geographical, historical, political and strategic factors, but are changing towards a more open policy prioritising the Asian region in the Asian century. But what does this mean for the future? 3

6 Understanding different cultures and values is essential for a successful future business leader in the Asian century. It is important for Australia to deepen its bilateral and multilateral relations with key players in the Asian region including China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea in order to continue to influence regional politics and possible shape the region to its own advantage in the future. Australia should be aware of its special place and should use this location to its advantage. This will provide the base for a more interconnected region, which can deal with important economic, security and strategic challenges and will be the driving force for a growing Australia in the Asian Century. There are more Asian students studying in Australia than ever before; Australia has unprecedented trade and investment links in the region; tourism is at an all-time high; and migration is at near record levels. Having greater knowledge of countries in the region is important in forging new opportunities in Asia. Government support for Asia-focused knowledge diffusion in primary and secondary schools is particularly critical. The key task is to explore how a broadening of knowledge in Australia about our region and the principle of self-interest can in fact be mutually reinforcing. Having a free-wheeling discussion about how greater Asia literacy can promote deeper Asian engagement is a great place to start. 4

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