Australia Spells Out Asia Blueprint

The Wall Street Journal reports Australia plans to grow business with Asian countries, including China and India, to a third of its economy. This plan comes amid growing anxieties over China’s increasing influence in Australia:

“The world economy is coming our way,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a speech Sunday to launch a long-term policy document called “Australia in the Asian Century”.

“We are living through an economic and social transformation on a scale and at a speed which defies comparison,” Ms. Gillard said of the reforms underway in countries such as China which are shifting the base of global power eastwards.

China is already Australia’s biggest trading partner due mainly to demand for raw materials like iron ore and coal, helping cushion the resource-rich economy from the recent economic woes in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.

Tensions have also arisen in recent times over the thorny issue of foreign investment. Rural-based lawmakers have been critical of the Chinese buying farmland and agricultural businesses, an attitude Ms. Gillard’s Labor government has described as “xenophobic clap-trap”.

As China is undergoing a change in leadership, Australian Treasurer, Wayne Swan, expects new challenges and opportunities to arise from cooperation between the two countries, from The Australian:

But he told a conference in Canberra on Tuesday regardless of who is at the helm, China and Australia will “remain intertwined”.

Mr Swan told the 2012 China Advanced Leadership Program conference strong relationships have been formed between the leaders of its two countries.

“We will continue to build and strengthen these relationships so we can manage the transitions that come with a close and evolving partnership,” Mr Swan said.

“As we forge further ahead into the 21st century, China’s transformations – its urbanisation, its extraordinary mega-cities, the growing middle class – are not just a sign of progress, they also symbolise China’s return to pre-eminence in the global economy,” he said.

Aside from economic ties, Australia also plans to build diplomatic ties with its Asian partners, from Bloomberg Businessweek:

Australia also plans to improve diplomatic relations with China, its top trading partner, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea, while expanding ties with countries in the region including Vietnam and Mongolia, Gillard said.

By the end of the decade, Asia will surpass Europe and North America combined in economic output, Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan said yesterday. Asia’s middle class is forecast to rise by more than 2.5 billion people by 2030, he said.

“A consumer boom is fast gathering momentum,” Swan said in an e-mailed statement. “This will increase demand for a diverse range of goods and services, like health, aged care, education, tourism and financial services.”

“We will continue to support a greater role for Asian countries in a rules-based regional and global order,” according to the report, entitled ‘Australia in the Asian Century.’ “Australia’s alliance with the U.S. and a strong U.S. presence in Asia will support regional stability, as will China’s full participation in regional developments.”

According to China Daily, Canberra plans  to emphasize education and language studies to better embrace the ‘Asian Century’:

To better embrace the Asian Century, the Australian government plans to put a renewed emphasis on Asian studies in schools and universities, according to the white paper Australia in the Asian Century released on Sunday.

All Australian students will have the opportunity, and be encouraged, to undertake a continuous course of study in an Asian language throughout their schooling, said the white paper.

The white paper points out that the number of Australian students studying languages other than English is declining, with less than 6 percent studying Mandarin and other Asian languages in 2008.

Coupled with an increased educational focus on Asian languages, the Australian government will finance and boost the number of Australian students studying in Asia to let them better experience Asian culture.

Read more about China’s ties with Australia, via CDT.