China at Heart of Australia’s Asian Century White Paper

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has finally released the “Australia in the Asian Century” White Paper here Sunday, placing China at the center of Australia’ s Asian century.

The long-delayed White Paper lays out an ambitious plan to guarantee Australia can take a hold of the opportunities offered by the Asian century by becoming a more Asia-literate and Asia- capable nation.

The prime minister said that the scale and pace of Asia’s rise is staggering, and there are significant opportunities and challenges for all Australians.

“In this century, the region in which we live will become home to most of the world’s middle class and will be the world’s largest producer of goods and services, and the largest consumer of them.”However, Gillard encouraged Australians to determine their own future and not rely on the fortunes that have made resource-rich Australia an economic success story.

“It is not enough to rely on luck–our future will be determined by the choices we make and how we engage with the region we live in. We must build on our strengths and take active steps to shape our future.”The White Paper, led by economist Dr Ken Henry and Australia’s leading academic, corporate and social experts, sets out a number of targets for over the next 13 years to 2025 to “ensure Australia can fulfill its ambitions and compete effectively within Asia.”Dr Henry has made Australia’s need to engage as a part of Asia paramount.

He said, “Australia needs to continue along the path of integrating economically. I mean that we need to help reduce barriers, to allow goods, services, workers and ideas to move throughout the region. We need to foster the development of regional supply chains and free-flowing labor and capital. That means better harmonized regulatory processes.”J.W. Neville Fellow and former Austrade Chief Economist Tim Harcourt told Xinhua that Australia is entering its fourth wave of engagement with Asia and the Chinese engine remains at the heart of Australia’s economic evolution.

“In terms of trading partners, just as China superseded Japan which had previously taken over from the UK so further realignment of the global economic order will again alter Australia’s trading patterns. The emergence of several ASEAN states, in addition to the new Asian giants China and India will take us through this new phase of engagement,” he said.

As Australia’s leading trading partner and the first customer when it comes to marketing Australia’s massive natural resources, China and China literacy is a key platform of the White Paper.

The Australia China Business Council (ACBC), Australia’s leading organization committed to China engagement, described the paper as a “wake-up call to both Australian political and business sectors that (Australia) need to lift our game if the Asian Century is to amount to anything more than rhetoric.”Frank Tudor, ACBC chairman, quoted Chinese ambassador Chen Yuming that the Chinese feel that there is a major gap in Australia’s understanding of China.

A spokesman for Tudor added that “cultural IQ matters.”Educating Australia on Asia is perhaps the key focus of the White Paper.

Ms Gillard said that by 2025, Australia’s school system needs to achieve key targets the system should be in the top five in the world, and 10 of “our universities in the world’s top 100.””Globally we will be ranked in the top 5 countries for ease of doing business and our innovation system will be in the world’s top 10,” she said.

Studies of Asia will be a core part of the Australian school curriculum.

All Australian students will have continuous access to a priority Asian language–Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian or Japanese.