Our New Place in the Asia-Pacific
The historical ties between Australia and Asia date back to many decades ago before and after the events of World War II. Extremely strong cultural, economic and political ties have existed between Australia and Asian countries. Such countries include Japan, China and South Korea as the most notable. Asian countries and Australia have enjoyed a mutual and vital dependence on each other for the survival of their industries through the supply of crucial raw materials (Brack, 2013, p. 102). In addition, diplomatic agreements have been reached by Australia and Asian countries to safeguard the lives of their citizens either through agreements on immigration and also mutual efforts to promote security in the region.
With the rise of the Asian Century, Australia has had to remain relevant so as not to be overtaken by the progress of their neighbours. Its past ties with Asian countries have played a pivotal role in ensuring that its relevance remains in the growing Asian Century. Asia has relied heavily on Australia to provide vital resources (Bennett, Earnest & Tanji, 2009, p. 88). An example is Japan’s heavy reliance on resources such as coal, iron ore and uranium from Australia since the end of World War II. Other than industrial materials, Japan has had to feed its country’s citizens through Australia’s wheat, beef and milk products. For nearly four decades, Japan’s businessmen, bureaucrats and political figureheads have their fair share of learning from their Australian predecessors (Johnson, Ahluwalia & McCarthy, 2010, p. 79).
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China has been a key trading partner of Australia with the former creating a ready market for Australia’s raw materials for industry and also finished products. Australia has also been helpful in absorbing the thousands of Chinese immigrants that have entered the country in years (Patience & Jacques, 2010, p. 107). This has enabled strong multicultural relationships to be formed between the two countries with time. In the past, Australia has been keen on helping the development of other countries in the Asian region such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and New Zealand. This has been through efforts of providing welfare and security through sending troops to quell communist revolts, support independence of Indonesia and assist in the Korean War.
After the Vietnamese War, Australia strived to put more effort in strengthening ties with Asian countries than with European countries. Australia helped settle the majority of immigrants that were as a result of the Vietnamese War. In addition, Australia also made efforts to stop fearing and suspecting Asia as a potential threat to its economic, political and social superiority in the East (Bennett, Earnest & Tanji, 2009, p. 143). Muslims over time have been allowed to practice their religion in Australia without fear of separation from the rest of the population. Emphasis was created by Australian diplomats and scholars that Australian children should be taught more about Asia, rather than isolating the country from its Asian counterparts. Australia has employed education coupled with improved trading ties rather than isolation to demonstrate that conservatism would be destructive (Bennett, Earnest & Tanji, 2009, p. 221).
Many countries have faced a number of diplomatic challenges when it comes to establishing a good relationship with Asia-Pacific countries. We are included in this bracket. Our country has in the past had negative trade, political and cultural relationships with Asia-Pacific which may hinder our new place with the latter. One of the major historical issues that strain our relationship with Asia-Pacific is military strength and position. For more than a century, our country has done all it could to ensure that its military strength is second to none, even if it meant employing dirty tactics (Barton, Goldstein, Josling & Steinberg, 2010, p. 134). A classic example is the intolerable living conditions the presence of U.S military has created in the island of Okinawa. The United States military personnel in the region have been increasing since the end of World War II. The result of this new occupation was illegal land seizures, high rates of crime, numerous cases of noise pollution by the military and an unbearable intensity of sexual violence.
Environmental damage has been the result of widespread harmful nuclear tests the U.S has carried out on foreign Asia-pacific soil. In Guam, the radiation form U.S nuclear tests have resulted in high cancer levels among citizens with extensive damage on the country’s coral reefs and coastal waters. Most citizens of the country were forced to flee their homes permanently, a bizarre situation on foreign soil that the United States took little or no action on. The increase in military power in Asia has seen increased number of civilian casualties in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Johnston Atoll and the Mariana Islands. There can be no excuse for the damage that U.S has brought upon foreign Asia-Pacific countries in its pursuit of military might (Brack, 2013, p. 162).
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Historical evidence has proved that the U.S has shown strong racial discrimination against immigrants from Asia-Pacific countries. China has borne the most pain with its citizens facing really hard times living in the United States. In the late 1800’s, Chinese immigrants in our country have faced cruel living conditions (Inkelas, 2006, p. 99). Such examples include imposed police tax on every Chinese in 1860 in California State, 20 Chinese being shot or hanged in 1871 in Los Angeles and other states, the San Francisco Board of Education drafting legislation to segregate Asians in 1905 and in 1923 our country declared that Asian Indians were not eligible for naturalised citizenship. All these are just but a few of the documented historical evidence to suggest that the United States has alienated its Asian counterparts. In light of this, our country may find it difficult to find a new place in the growing Asia-Pacific (Inkelas, 2006, p. 49).
Our trading relationship with Asia-Pacific countries has been strained in a number of ways. Just recently in the month of September 2009, the United States imposed a three year tariff on tire imports from China. This led to an increase in jobs in our markets and a substantial growth in our country’s industries that produced tires. The result was a very sharp reduction in Chinese tire exports which hurt its economy. This is proof that the U.S would take extreme measure to safeguard its economy (Taylor, 2009, p. 33). Since the World War II, the U.S has enjoyed overvaluing its dollar at the expense of the Chinese Yen.
Our country has also been involved in a number of extreme trade measures in the interest of controlling such countries’ political plans. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Cuba and Iran so as to make amendments to their political ambitions. The U.S has imposed sanctions on Venezuela in what is believed to be an unjust move on the country. It is alleged that the U.S seeks to oppose president’s Nicolas Maduro democratically elected government. Scholars believe that such moves by the United States to fail to recognise the sovereignty of foreign countries is what hurts the country’s new place in Asia-Pacific (Patience & Jacques, 2010, p. 57).
However, not all hope is lost. Even though our country has been viewed with animosity and bitterness, our administrations over the years has done a lot to maintain cordial relationships with Asia-Pacific countries. Among the most notable efforts of the U.S government aimed at rebuilding trust with Asia-pacific countries is seen in the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S has respected the voice of activists groups when confronted on the issue of building military bases on foreign Asian soil. Our country closed its naval base in the Philippines in 1992 following protests from the Gangjeong villagers (Hill, 2012, p. 111).
There have been a growing number of Asian students in the United States with many of our universities increasing their intake of foreign students. This has shown an aggressive effort to foster multicultural ties with Asia-Pacific countries. Many Asians living in the United States claim that they would choose the U.S as their country of choice against their home countries in Asia. Our country has allowed immigrants from Asia-Pacific the same freedom guaranteed to its citizens. Immigrants enjoy the same economic opportunities and religious freedoms that every American citizen enjoys. Our country has also been very helpful in providing settlement for immigrants from Asia-Pacific countries. Evidence is seen by the ease of Asians receiving green cards for permanent residence in the U.S.
Our country has signed numerous international trade agreements with Asia-Pacific countries to foster trade relations. An example is the United States’ full support of the APEC body whose sole purpose has been to promote economic growth and capacity building in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S has provided significant investment in the fields of energy, medicine and technology to Asia-Pacific countries such as China, South Korea and Myanmar (Grimwade, 2006, p. 70).
Asia-Pacific has long been the centre of political and economic warfare amongst developed nations in the world. However, times have greatly changed in that the region is growing and expanding in order to form a strong economic and social hub for countries globally. It is high time countries such as ours realised that we need to mend our relationship with Asia-Pacific countries and reconcile with them for our past mistakes. This can be done through quickly dropping our suspicions about Asia-Pacific region and working in harmony with its countries to create better political, socio-cultural and economic ties (Gordon, 2012, p. 17).