Australia's Asia

22 November 2012

The Australian Government may know that the nation’s bold, bright future lies in Asia. It just has a few problems actually locating it let alone charting how to get there, writes DAVID BROPHY.

Recently the Australian government has moved to excise mainland Australia from the country’s own legal map. In the parallel universe inhabited by our politicians, in which humanitarian interests are best served by consigning asylum seekers to years of legal limbo, Australia is now morphing into its opposite, ‘Unaustralia’. At such a juncture, it might be worth considering the Labor Party led government’s flexible approach to geography in another context.

The Australian Government’s white paper Australia in the Asian Century, released on 28 October, charts a course towards 2025 via a market and digitally-driven engagement with a comfortably middle class and cashed-up Asia. However, for a document resounding with certainty about Australia’s future source of prosperity, there is little consistency in the white paper’s understanding of the actual location of ‘Asia’.

The glossary of the document offers no fewer than eight different configurations of the region, the region expanding and contracting at the will of the much-anticipated document’s authors. As they write: ‘The definition of Asia for the purposes of the charts varies due to data constraints’. The white paper then offers eight delineations of ‘Asia’ to cover the array of charts and statistics presented.

This is hardly surprising; continents are, after all, slippery concepts, relics of out-dated and essentialist cultural geography, you might say. ‘Asia’ is a European invention: no one in India or Japan ever thought they were living in Asia until imperial merchants and colonial intruders told them so. Still, is it too much to ask whether, upon entering the much vaunted ‘Asian century’ the nation’s leaders might proffer a cogent view on where the promised land lies, even if only for practical reasons? Which countries, economic zones, linguistic realms or, indeed, cultures will end up being included in the ‘Asian’ component of the proposed new Australian educational curriculum?

Read the full article at The China Story. For more in-depth analysis, commentary and essays on China visit www.thechinastory.org

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