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Foreign Minister Bob Carr to speak at Sydney Uni: exclusive extract

What is Australia’s place in the Asian Century, asks Senator Bob Carr.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr arrives at a UNICEF school in Kunyangon, June 8, 2012. Photo: AusAID Photolibrary
Foreign Minister Bob Carr arrives at a UNICEF school in Kunyangon, June 8, 2012. Photo: AusAID Photolibrary

Most of Asia has transformed in under 50 years. It is however, valuable to qualify the expectation that the century belongs to Asia. For this country, an Asia strategy only makes sense in the broader context of our foreign and trade policy, a policy which will have a global focus.

It is realistic to acknowledge all large Asian economies will face serious challenges this century. There are potential downsides. There are risks.

The President of the Asian Development Bank, Haruhiko Kuroda, said last year: “While an Asian Century is plausible, it is far from pre-ordained”

The IMF has said: “There are tail risks of a hard landing in China”. And further: “Domestic imbalances in China continue to cast a shadow on its ability to act as a sustained source of demand in the region.”

Whether China remains the engine of so much growth in the region depends significantly on the Communist Party leadership’s ability to drive more balanced and sustainable growth.

On our relationship with China and with the US, we’ve got to be resistant to a notion that there’s a binary choice.

First, both the Chinese and the Americans tell us that their own relationship is very good – something that was confirmed by the recent economic and strategic dialogue between Americans and Chinese in China when the distraction of the Chen dissident affair failed to dislodge the talks.

Second, there’s enormous economic self-interest in the interdependent relationship. And this is in contrast with the relationship between America and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The prosperity of China and America would be undermined by a period of military conflict or frozen relations.

The third observation I’d make is this, the Australia-China relationship will continue to be robust because it’s in the interests of both of us to enjoy a strong partnership.

We need to keep up our creative, diplomatic efforts to help build trust and understanding in our region.

Australia has long recognised that the geo-politics of Asia are fundamental to our security and prosperity.

Australia needs to ensure that both the opportunities and challenges of an Asian century continue to work to our advantage.

This is an edited extract from a speech Bob Carr will deliver on Friday August 31 at 1pm in the Holme Withdrawing Room at the University of Sydney.

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