Within the next ten years, what are the greatest challenges that will be faced by Australian society?
Australia’s position in the ‘Asian Century’ is a topic that has recently turned into a heated public debate, especially in the days leading up to the release of Prime Minister Gillard’s long-awaited ‘Australia in the Asian Century’ White Paper.
A key theme in the White Paper discusses how Australia should take advantage of the Asian Century and seize opportunities. The White Paper also covers the key challenges to be faced by Australia in the coming decade; namely, how to bring its environmental advantages fully into play and establish a ‘foothold’ in the Asian Century.
If Australia wants to make this idea a reality, it is not nearly enough to merely take diplomatic measures and rely on the government’s ambitious policies. Australia’s participation in the Asian Century also requires the buy-in of the general public as well as the understanding and support of various sectors, penetrating education, the workplace, and interpersonal ties on a grassroots level.
But, with that said, how is Australia currently involved with Asia?
A recent CPA Australia report found that, generally speaking, the Australian public and the majority of Australian businesses have an obvious lack of participation in Asia. Furthermore, Australians generally lack a common knowledge and understanding about Asia. The report also pointed out that the whole country of Australia needs to develop a new position towards Asia, otherwise it will face tremendous risk and can only play an “enduring supporting role” in the coming Asian Century.
An important problem in re-positioning is: can Australians open-mindedly accept the concept of “participation in the Asian Century,” and are they willing to change their mindset towards Asia? Are they already prepared and willing to accept these changes? And how should they respond to these kind of changes?
I believe that Australians actually do have the strength and mindset to meet new challenges, and to be receptive to new ideas and cultures, especially Asian culture. “Gangnam Style” is the best recent example.
Over the course of a few short months, “Gangnam style” already succeeded in transcending cultural boundaries, appealing to followers (including Australian fans) from around the globe, and spanning every age, gender, and culture. Korean pop music guru Psy’s “Gangnam style” music video on YouTube is sung entirely in Korean, yet it has had an extraordinary attractiveness and influence. Currently, more than half a billion people have watched the video, and almost everyone who watched can follow along to the video’s ‘horsey move’ dance steps.
Putting aside the power of social media, what can we learn from the Gangnam example?
I believe it shows that Australians are able and willing to accept new cultural ideas and norms. However, this kind of information must be spread through the right “channels” in order to become accepted and deeply rooted. Sometimes, the “channel” itself is a kind of information.
Therefore, the biggest challenge that Australia will face in the coming decade is to find the equivalent of a “Gangnam style medium” to spread information to the public about engagement in the Asian Century. What Australia needs is a message that can be easily understood, easily learned, can appeal to people from all ages and backgrounds, and can transcend the information “channels” of cultural boundaries–a dialogue on the Asian Century that every Australian can take part in.
Author: Seeyan Lee
Source : Original publication on Marco Polo Project