What Does Asia Think About Australia (and Australians)? - Part Four

Australia is arguably geographically better positioned than almost any other Western Nation to take advantage of the Asian Century. Coupled with the fact that Australia has some of the largest supplies of resources & minerals in the world, a stable government, a strong education system, safe food & water supplies, booming tourism markets, and a strong track of capital growth among our property markets and we are well placed to take advantage of the growth of Asia in the decades ahead. In addition, I came across an interesting term researching this article that I had not heard of previously. Diasporas! Am I the only one who hasn’t come across this term before? Basically, a diaspora is someone who makes a claim to a country of family origin, regardless of time away from that country. This could include new migrants, Australian-born descendants, those of mixed parentage, and temporary residents in Australia for work or study. The Diversity Council Australia estimates that approximately 17 percent of people living and working in Australia (four million people) identify as being of Asian origin. This report estimates that the Chinese diaspora in Australia to be around 1.2 million, and the Indian diaspora 610,000. Australia’s Asian diasporas are most often well-educated and are driving new developments in knowledge-intense and technology-intense industries. They are stimulating and influencing trade, investment, technological innovation and knowledge flows between Australia and Asia. They are a potentially powerful economic force for Australia, assuming they see value in doing business with Australia , and Australians. So what do Asians really think of Australians? Look it is fundamentally flawed to think that one can write about the perceptions of an entire region for a country or it’s inhabitants. However, that being said, much has been written on the topic, and with the caveat that these observations are only as useful as whether they can produce any positive change let’s run through some of the things that have been said about Australia. In her blog article, "Diagnosing Asia's Australian Problem", Melissa Conley Tyler made 5 interesting observations:
  1. That whilst Australia there is potentially a big difference between Australia's positive self-image and the perception of Australia in some parts of Asia. Asians view Australia as rich and prosperous. This is backed by fact: every year since 2011, the UN Human Development Index has placed Australia second in the world after Norway as the world's most affluent nation. The only potential negative to this perception is if Australia’s economic success is seen as the result of dumb luck. Graeme Dobell has described how Donald Horne'sThe Lucky Country impacted on Asian leaders such as Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew. Adapting Lee's words, Australians could be seen as 'rich white trash' whose shack happens to sit atop a mountain of iron ore.”
  2. Some Asians perceive Australia as racist. (Meg Gurry has shown it's definitely an issue in relations with India, for example).
  3. Third, many Asians view Australia as subservient to other powers. The main issue here is Australia's alliance with the US & U.K. In some countries, such as Indonesia, there can be a view that Australia is a local branch office of an entity called 'the West’.
  4. There can be a perception that Australia is selfish. Cuts to foreign aid budgets (In May 2016 the government handed down the 2016/17 federal budget which confirmed the final round of Australian aid cuts by $224 million) have been noticed by our Asian neighbours and the argument that 'Australians are doing it tough' doesn't cut it among the poor of the region. For reference, Australia sits well below the international target of 0.7% national income in foreign aid. &
  5. Former ambassador Rawdon Dalrymple has previously noted that Australia’s cultural and social values are among the most un-Asian on earth.
Look, it is always going to be difficult to please all of the people all of the time, so the question for Australia, is do we even bother? Do we want to change how Australian’s are perceived by our Asian neighbours? My personal belief is that Australia, and Australian’s in general, are amongst the Luckiest on the planet. That being said we are also a nation of educated, innovative, fair dinkum, & multicultural individuals. We are blessed to enjoys some of the highest levels of economic, religious and political freedoms in the world and I think we can build on those strengths and blessings and make Australia even greater. When travelling I think of Gandhi's famous quote “ Be the change you want to see in the world” and try and be the best ambassador I can be for our great nation. As always we love to hear your views and in the next, and final, article in this series I will look at What Can We Do To Benefit From The "Asian Century"? Until tomorrow, Matthew Bateman Matt has successfully transitioned from establishing and operating a string a successful health & wellness businesses, to being a full-time property investor & developer. Matt has been involved in the development of well over $100M worth of residential real estate. Matt is a sought after presenter and educator covering all areas of real estate & regularly wows audiences across Australasia with his knowledge and passion. Matt's Special Asia Feature: Monday 29th August: Is Australia Still ‘The Lucky Country’? Tuesday 30th August: Do We Really Work Hard Here In Australia? Wednesday 31 August: How Unaffordable Is Australian Property On A Global Scale? Thursday 1 September: What Does Asia Think About Australia (and Australians)? Friday 2 September: What Can We Do To Benefit From The "Asian Century"?

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