Asian Century

What do Hong Kong, West Berlin and China’s Shenzen region have in common? They have all prospered as special economic zones alongside regions dominated by government.

Hooning off into the special economic zone… Picture: Ray Strange

The federal Opposition’s leaked proposal to spur development in Australia’s sparsely populated north met with peremptory dismissal last week. But special economic zones are neither a new nor untried idea.

The spectacular transformations of Hong Kong and West Berlin are renowned testament to the power of free trade and market prices. China’s spectacular economic growth rests on creative economic zoning too. Inspired by Hong Kong’s rapid efflorescence, then-leader Deng Xiaoping designated special economic zones in Shenzen in 1980.

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  • James of Hong Kong says:

    05:59pm | 15/02/13

    @Vet65: You are correct, great comment! The crime that is the Australian Greens and in particular that child SH-Y is that it only takes a nano second to recall just how devastating and prolonged the last drought was. One can easily recall the amount of tragic suicides that took place… Read more »

  • mick says:

    05:39pm | 15/02/13

    This is about merging us into the Asian union you fucking halfwit..Its about us being completely swamped by jungle Bunnies and being run by a 1 world communist system…And you support that??? Drop dead you fucking treasonist cocksucker… Read more »


Australia has an international reputation for hosting world-class sporting events. We have held exceptional Olympic and Commonwealth Games, World Chamionships and World Cups.

I thought Gangnam Style was more of a horsey thing… Pic: AFP

The organisation has been superb and the action on the field outstanding.

But the missing piece of the puzzle is Australia’s failure to fully capitalise on many of these events away from the sporting action. 

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  • David V. says:

    03:30pm | 23/11/12

    Parochialism is part of football, tribalism is the essence of our sport. Read more »

  • Shane* says:

    02:55pm | 23/11/12

    There is an inevitability that Aussie sport fans don’t like to acknowledge: Australia is going global. Once upon a time a team was tied fiercely to a suburb and that was any child’s only option if they lived there. Now, that child is cheering for Manchester United vs Bayern Munich,… Read more »


Britain has recently decided to stop overseas aid to India. It had become untenable for the Government to take money from British taxpayers to subsidise a nuclear power with a space program.

Saving Asia one little flag at a time

It’s time Australia took a similar, hard-nosed approach to overseas aid. If the Asian Century means anything, it means Australians realising that the hubris, paternalism, and sentimentalism reflected in an old style ‘first-world helping out the third-world’ aid program is anachronistic.

Mutual economic and social benefit must be the criterion for any investment of Australian funds in another country. Leveraging and increasing Australian strengths must be the strategy.

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  • Aussie Wazza says:

    04:49pm | 22/11/12

    When you see the little toddler with the runny nose and big eyes. When you see the little girl tapping on your car window. When you are handed a shell as a ‘gift’ by some children dressed in rags your heart goes out. But after a few visits and some… Read more »

  • C says:

    04:09pm | 22/11/12

    Indonesia is a wealthy country - the problem is that 95% of the wealth is owned by 5% of the population and they have no intention of sharing it.  Islamic social welfare philosophy is also quite different from “Christian” social welfare philosophy. There is a similar situation in many other… Read more »


For the past three weeks much of the cabinet has been doing laps of honour waving the Asian Century white paper as if celebrating a major achievement.

Correctly identifying this as Tom Yum Goong isn't going to create 2 million jobs. Pic:

The document has been lofted like a banner in press conferences, op-ed pieces and speeches. It has been taken overseas by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and shown to Asian political and business leaders.

But during those three weeks what has become increasingly obvious is that, outside the clutch of foreign affairs mavens and forward-think business types who didn’t need any educating on the rise of the Asian middle classes, the Asian Century white paper has been a non-event.

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  • marley says:

    06:10pm | 19/11/12

    @Paul - well, let’s see.  We have people who have a native language - Mandarin wins, hands down.  Then we have people who use a working language - English is at least on the same level, and possibly higher.  Note figure 8 in this link: a little dated, but the… Read more »

  • Paul says:

    04:50pm | 19/11/12

    @Border “What do I know?” Nothing whatsoever. As I mentioned before, I can’t take anything you say seriously. “How many Indian’s, Chinese and African’s learn Spanish?” You can’t even write plurals, FFS. Read more »


For Australia to seize the opportunities of the Asian Century the Australian business community needs to confront an uncomfortable possibility – it may be the weakest link.

We can probably do better than this. Pic: John Heritage

Australian business is typically sparing in its praise but never short of criticism of our national and state governments. Sometimes, we are so busy finding the negative in the details, we don’t support the positive in the big picture.

For example, it is time for Australian business to say the following: ubiquitous national broadband is an unqualified good thing for Australia and a massive opportunity for business at home and in Asia.

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  • stephen says:

    06:34pm | 16/11/12

    Yeah, that’s english. Let them come to us. Paul Keating says that they are our future because there are so many prospective consumers there, (this is an ex Labor PM saying this, too) but he does not say that 99.90% of Asia is still the peasantry. I’d like to know… Read more »

  • PJ says:

    06:01pm | 16/11/12

    acotrel What? thats not how i remember it…. Citigroup said last November 2011 that the opposition’s proposal would cost around $16.7 billion. Coalition argued fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) connections, where fibre is rolled out to within reach of premises and copper is used over the final distance, rather than fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connections… Read more »


On 28 October the Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a speech at the launch of the White paper on Australia in the Asian Century. “History” she said “asks great nations great questions”.

Prime Minister Stanley Bruce played a significant role in shaping Australia’s outlook in the early twentieth century.

As we look forward to the Asian Century we might also want to reflect on the way Australia sought to define its place in the world 100 years ago: a century marked by the global process of decolonization.

In the 1920’s the sun never set upon the British Empire but it was a rapidly changing world. 

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  • ma_kelvin says:

    05:55pm | 03/11/12

    @the cynic Yes you are correct and unfortuneately it reads like a Yes Minister episode .  I used to watch Yes Minisiter for a laugh at the ironic side but alas inherited the old English attitude towards politics in Australia. The education, health and other government departments must adapt the… Read more »

  • St. Michael says:

    04:53pm | 03/11/12

    Ah, this would be the same Japan that has spent the last 20 years in a liquidity trap and currently has a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 233% or so? Read more »


The Gillard government’s much-touted Australia in the Asian Century report is packed full of eye-popping statistics about the rise of Asia. Did you know, for example, that 80 million people played football in Asia in 2006 and that by 2020, this is expected to reach 380 million?

There are gold cars all over the place! Picture: AFP

China is already the world’s biggest buyer of Rolls Royce cars. In the first decade of the 21st century, the number of cars per 100 urban households in China jumped from less than one to more than 18. There are now 80 computers per 100 households in China, up from eight. There are 60 microwave ovens, up from 16. And a whopping 200 mobiles, up from 16.

Are you excited about the Asian Century yet? Wait, there’s more.

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  • Gregg says:

    04:49pm | 31/10/12

    Jessica, you do talk as if the mining boom will be over and yes booms and leaner times do run in cycles. Even with the current boom, there’ll be significant overlap between your phases,  many resource projects having already gone through construction and already producing whereas many are still at… Read more »

  • David V. says:

    04:49pm | 31/10/12

    We can learn to be a lot more like Asia and will be far better off: - emphasis on traditional values, respect for elders and authority, discipline, harsh punishments, community over individual. - a strong sense of nationalism rather than multiculturalism, no pandering to PC or minority sensitivities. - enterprise… Read more »


Australia’s foreign policy, according to Foreign Minister Bob Carr in a piece published the day after Australia’s UN Security Council win, is not only about protecting our national interest, it is “about doing the right thing”. If so, we should have expected more from the most significant work on Australian foreign policy for many years.

Tibetan monks are setting themselves on fire in protest. Picture: AFP

As an advocate for human rights and democratic freedoms in Tibet, I was encouraged when the Gillard government announced its plan for a white paper on Australia in the Asian Century. Our understanding of Asia, and China in particular, was in dire need of updating. When it came to Tibet, Chinese propagandists had spent years happily filling the vacuum left by the dearth of information escaping the Great Firewall and waning government interest in the region.

During the consultation phase, several Australian NGOs provided thoughtful input on how Australia’s deepening economic relationships with Asia might also support the wellbeing of disadvantaged or marginalised groups, particularly those paying for China’s “economic miracle”.

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  • Gregg says:

    04:59pm | 30/10/12

    I an not at all surprised that you have responded Rennie. All hail China, Julia will be so pleased to have a friend. Read more »

  • Gregg says:

    04:56pm | 30/10/12

    I think you’ll find Neshlihan that Simon as an activist lobbies politicians and bureaucrats as he does indicate, it not being within his power to do much else. As for China, the Chinese political machine makes their rules for politics, industrialisation, exploitation where possible, financing , the environment etc. without… Read more »


A woman sits in a courtroom dock. Eyes downcast. Fidgeting. Clearly tormented by recollections that are now flooding back as fresh as they were decades ago.

A woman breaks down after a war crimes trial in Cambodia

She describes the being frogmarched from her home by armed black-clothed soldiers. A month-long walk to a concentration camp. Giving birth on the side of a road. Being worked to the bone. Sleeping in pits covered in worms. Seeing fellow captives beheaded. Hearing the screams of innocents being tortured. Giving up her sick children so they could get proper medical help only to learn they were never treated and died alone. Knowing her husband was locked in a dark prison cell, interrogated, tortured and finally murdered.

But it isn’t Nazi Germany she is describing. It isn’t even that long ago. And it didn’t happen that far away from our shores.

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  • Gregg says:

    04:37pm | 30/10/12

    They were certainly horrendously bad times for many Cambodians Jane and fortunately some lucky ones were able to make it across to safety in Thailand. Ironically, it has been Thailand with which Cambodia has had some border disputes in recent years. ” But for the people of Cambodia – scores… Read more »

  • Gregg says:

    04:29pm | 30/10/12

    @andye, I reckon PJ is a long way from claiming that Labor = eventual killing fields and to some extent anything like the killing fields events may have been more of a sudden step change than a slow process. Like the US had just done a quick withdrawal from Vietnam… Read more »


Leaving aside the irony of the term “White Paper”, there are other reasons to be a little cautious, if not blasé, about the Australia in the Asian Century report.

So guess what we've just ducked downstairs to grab for lunch?

Basically, it is one of those big fat paper bricks created by bureaucrats which for now at least, appears to have no immediate practical application beyond starting a conversation about the kinds of real world initiatives we’d actually like to have one day.

Oh, there are stats and graphs and so forth. Some stats are rather eye-opening, such as the one that shows Asia’s food demand will double by 2050 – and that Australia will play a much bigger part in helping to feed Asia.

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  • Dman says:

    06:46pm | 29/10/12

    You’re the one who needs to look at an atlas. If you did, you’d know that the majority of Indonesia (an Asian country in case you didn’t know) lies in the Southern Hemisphere. And that several major south-east Asian cities are in fact far closer to Sydney or Melbourne than… Read more »

  • Haxton Waag says:

    05:49pm | 29/10/12

    @St Michael: I checked the link. The guy has delusions of grandeur; so far up himself, it’s dark. That in itself is enough to ignore his ill-edited rant. Read more »


US President Obama and Russian President Medvedev will attend the sixth East Asia Summit in Bali this Saturday, November 19.  This historic development will make the East Asia Summit one of the world’s most important leadership forums.  It will also be another signal of a continuing global power shift that will make the 21st century the Asian Century.

Sayonara, economic supremacy! Pic: Gary Ramage

US and Russian participation in the East Asia Summit represents an extraordinary achievement for an Asian integration process initiated by (originally 6, now 10) ASEAN countries during the Cold War. US military primacy will continue for at least for the first half of the 21st century, highlighting the importance for Australia of the ANZUS alliance.

President Obama will celebrate the 60th anniversary of ANZUS this morning in a speech to a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament. The ANZUS alliance protects Australia with US nuclear deterrence capability that is likely to remain an effective deterrent of military adventurism by a ‘rising’ China.

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  • laklmou says:

    07:19am | 19/11/11

    jUEj3V dlpjwysyycei, cyiwulqiteqd, [link=]rvcbftixefup[/link], Read more »

  • yqwvifzrfrj says:

    07:19am | 19/11/11

    aEdqtC pewtfulqvjzf, cwucpsptbfsm, [link=]yivfmrmyxydp[/link], Read more »


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