Australia Asian Century White Paper Terms Reference

Australia Asian Century White Paper Terms Reference-14
Defence understands the need to record the history of your victories.And it’s a major win when your department hands Canberra the new construct for the region.The two terms describe the same set of players and forces, but arrange them in different orders with different weightings. Crudely, Asian century usage blends liberal internationalism with an optimistic view of Asia entering a new phase of deeper and broader engagement, privileging geoeconomics over geopolitics.

Defence understands the need to record the history of your victories.And it’s a major win when your department hands Canberra the new construct for the region.The two terms describe the same set of players and forces, but arrange them in different orders with different weightings. Crudely, Asian century usage blends liberal internationalism with an optimistic view of Asia entering a new phase of deeper and broader engagement, privileging geoeconomics over geopolitics.

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While Gillard had most of Canberra doing Asian century duty, the Defence department defected to the Indo-Pacific.

While it’s only a few minutes’ drive from the Russell Hill defence complex to the other side of the lake where parliament, the PM’s department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reside, sometimes the Kings Avenue bridge marks a major conceptual chasm.

Indo-Pacific has become the uniform usage in Canberra.

The 2013 defence white paper marked the jump-off point, with further restatements in the 2016 defence white paper and the 2017 foreign policy white paper.

Little wonder ASEAN’s new Indo-Pacific outlook seeks ‘dialogue and cooperation instead of rivalry’.

Cooperation is what we desire, rivalry is what we’ve got.Canberra agrees on the language, but the fundamentals of the argument rage.Australia’s economic dependence on China keeps growing, as Greg Earl observes: ‘Short of a Chinese economic catastrophe, this is an integrated bilateral economic relationship that is not going to be wished away.’ Trace the debate through four contributions from one of our finest diplomatic minds, Peter Varghese.Gillard needed some foreign policy not owned by her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, and Asian century was it.The Asian century language came from Treasury and the quintessential Treasury man of his generation, Ken Henry, got to write the policy (although as Henry’s draft blew out towards 500 pages, the head of the Office of National Assessments, Allan Gyngell, was drafted to slash it to 300 pages and add a pinch of foreign policy coherence).Or as the ever-vivid former prime minister Paul Keating puts it, ‘the nutters are in charge’.Asian century had a brief starring moment during Julia Gillard’s time as prime minister, cresting with the white paper in October 2012.Defence hated the Asian century tag because the headline dropped the US from the equation.That’s conceptual/construct poison for a department that sees anchoring America in Asia as a fundamental Oz interest.Canberra’s explanation for replacing Asia-Pacific with Indo-Pacific this decade was to broaden the frame of reference and factor in India.There was another compelling reason that was fudged in the telling: come up with a frame big enough to handle (or contain or engage or balance) the giant dragon in the room.

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