New Report: Smart Engagement with Asia

Smart engagement, stronger Australia: our future in the Asia-Pacific

Smart Engagement with Asia cover - green cover with white writing, a picture of a globe in the bottom left corner. The rise of Asia requires vision and action in Australia, according to a new report released as part of an ICS-led project, Smart Engagement with Asia.

Authored by Professor Ien Ang, Dr Yasmin Tambiah and Dr Phillip Mar the Smart Engagement with Asia report provides new insight into the complexities of our relationships in the region, and a blueprint for the bridges Australia can build.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Australia's Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb AC called for a national commitment to our future in the region.

'The ambition of our Asian neighbours is reflected in their strategies to grow their economies through innovation,' Professor Chubb said. 'It is no coincidence that science and research are central to their national plans.

'Our geography opens opportunities for business and research alike, but our strategy will determine what we make of them.'

Professor Ang, Chair of the Expert Working Group and co-author, said the report was a timely reminder of the barriers that still remain to cultural understanding and economic exchange, explaining: 'We need to progress from short-termism and opportunism to see the two-way benefits of deeper engagement'.

Priority actions identified in the report included:

  • Using Asian communities in Australia and Australian communities in Asia to play a bridging role
  • Encouraging greater interest and proficiency in Asian languages
  • Investing strategically in science and cultural diplomacy through a national framework
  • Recognising and nurturing grass root community initiatives as an essential complement to short-term missions and delegations.

Eight per cent of Australia's population was born in Asia, a much higher percentage than the USA (4%) or UK (2%). Professor John Fitzgerald, a member of the Expert Working Group, emphasised the need to recognise and involve Asian and Pacific communities living in Australia in all aspects of a smart engagement strategy: 'Asian Australians bring with them skills, social networks and cultural knowledge, which can enhance links between Australia and various parts of Asia. They should be involved regularly as informal ambassadors focusing on entrepreneurship, innovation, philanthropy and volunteerism'.

'These relationships exist informally but if Australia were to scale them up, all Australians would reap the benefits.'

The report, Smart Engagement with Asia: Leveraging Language, Research and Culture, is the main outcome of the Smart Engagement with Asia research project led out of ICS from 2012-2015 and funded by the Australian Academy of the Humanities (opens in a new window). The project, which is part of the Australian Council of Learned Academies' (opens in a new window)(ACOLA) Securing Australia's Future program, examined how language, research and culture can be leveraged as vehicles for Australia's engagement with Asia.

Professor Ang also authored an article on the topic for the Australian Institute of International Affairs: 'Smart, patient and slow engagement in Asia' (opens in a new window).

Original media release from ACOLA.

Posted: 26 June 2015.