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Abundant Asian Century opportunities for an already Asia-savvy Australia

By Benjamin Herscovitch - posted Monday, 25 February 2013

Despite five years of global financial woes and sovereign debt risks, Asia's hunger for our resources has kept the Australian economy fired up.

Although multi-billion dollar resource deals and flotillas of China-bound freighters might take the headlines, Australia's non-resource exports should not be overlooked.

Indeed, with the region's middle-classes expected to swell to 3.2 billion by 2030, Asian consumers and companies could open up rivers of gold for Australia goods and services exporters.


Asialink predicts that as much as $275 billion could be injected into the Australian economy over the next decade if we improve our share of Asia's non-resource imports by just 0.3 per cent.

There is a catch though.

According to academics, business leaders and politicians alike, Australia needs to develop more Asia expertise to seize these massive Asian Century opportunities.

It seems cultural politics has taken centre stage in the debate about Australia's economic prospects in a global economy centred on Asia.

The near-complete consensus is that Australians lack the sensitivity and understanding to effectively compete in Asian markets and forge ever-closer ties with our northern neighbours.

As well as being reminiscent of the cultural cringe of a bygone era, these calls for deeper Asia awareness undersell Australia's natural strengths.


The idea that we are dangerously ignorant of the languages, cultures and mores of Asia is a step back towards a time when it was fashionable to deride Australia for being crude compared to European standards of sophistication.

It suggests Australians are embarrassingly Asia-illiterate and not quite ready to move beyond their parochial shores.

Perhaps this view is the result of the sneaking suspicion that the society that brought us the White Australia policy could not possibly be successful in the Asian Century.

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About the Author

Dr Benjamin Herscovitch is a Beijing-based research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies and previously worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Follow him on Twitter @B_Herscovitch.

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