Below, a comment from Alex Jones, but first, Sinclaire Prowse, a postgraduate student at the US Studies Centre, University of Sydney, writes:
An under addressed topic of discussion on the Asian Century White Paper is the implications it holds for the future of Australia's relationship with the US. The paper describes a grand vision towards strengthening the relationship between Australia and China in a variety of sectors and its provisions seem a natural and necessary exercise for Australia to undertake. But to what extent should Washington be worried about this compromising our deep security alliance?
Although very few in Washington will read it, those who do will most likely be perplexed. It only mentions the continuing role of the US in the Asia Pacific on a handful of occasions and it is striking how minute the role of the US is perceived to be, in particular with regards to security. Considering the original draft had to be re-written to include a greater reference of the US, this isn't surprising.
This will be viewed as a relatively inconsequential document for those in Washington but it seems intrinsically necessary that the US take documents such as these more seriously. If the US would undertake a similar effort in order to understand its role in the region, the scope and scale of their role would be accessible to both a domestic and international audience and it would give them a much greater understanding into the quick progression occurring in the region.
Alex Jones is studying for a Masters in Political Economy at Sydney University:
The White Paper is more than a road map for Australia’s engagement with Asian in the coming decades, it is something for our neighbours to mull over and take note of what role Australia might play. For Australian boys and girls, the language policy is a positive step but only half the picture.
The United States' engagement with Asia, particularly China, remains firmly focused inwards on the security and economic implications for its own superpower status. Strategic alliances splinter trust across the region while one can only imagine what Mitt Romney would do to US-Sino relations if elected. The US does not have a clear plan for the region as a whole and its relationship with China is a lot more tense than the surface might suggest. In the rest of the West Europe is currently far too overwhelmed with local issues to be making coherent external approaches.
Meanwhile African and South American relations have been driven by China's economy but no countries from either continent have made significant attempts to spread this connection across Asia. Also the future of China's ties are yet to be fully tested by Africa's stability and the tendency by some South American countries to follow the path nationalisation.
Apart from a putting in writing the broad direction that Australian education and industry was already facing, this is a billboard advertisement to grab the attention of Asia's leaders. No other country has taken such steps to produce such a positive and inclusive blueprint.
The language plan has certainly drawn the most attention. Putting aside questions about funding and eventual uptake, the languages selected show Australia wants to embrace the region as a whole, but those with the most potential have been chosen. Mandarin was always a given but that Japanese remains shows that the Paper's authors want to keep the old ties. Despite a couple decades of little growth, it is still a well-developed market that needs to be served. It is a pity Korean could not also be included as its potential for Australia is arguably on par with Japan. Including Indonesian and Hindi are big statements to show commitment beyond China and old friends. Australian relations with both Indonesia and India need more attention before benefits can be secured, in fact, some areas are in need of fundamental repair. Inclusion of these two languages is a positive step towards in a renewed direction.
Language is vital but delivering an 'Asian-literate' generation still lacks an important element; much can be learnt from the region's history. Relations between Asia's big three economies of Japan, South Korea and China are extremely complex and understanding these, amongst other, historical influences will lead to a better appreciation of the factors affecting trading patterns, security and development in the region. Not that European history and Australia's links to that history should be forgotten, but Asian history needs to include more than a brief history of China, the Korean war and Vietnam war.
The White Paper is Australia's effort to be taken as an important future partner. But for Australian boys and girls, talking the talk is one thing, knowing the history will provide a complete understanding of the region.