Forbes recently wrote that the leading power in East Asia will be Japan, not China.
While this is probably true, Australia should not be forgotten as already being the de facto leader in the greater Asia-Pacific region, and could be a greater power than Japan or future economic giant India, who are both contenders as the regional leader.
When considered in terms of economic strength, wealth, quality of life, education, technological advancement and political stability, Australia stands out from all other Asia-Pacific countries. We have the capacity to become the dominant power in the region if we play our cards right.
For starters, Australia is one of just three core countries in the Asia-Pacific, the others being Japan and New Zealand. The core countries are the 20 countries that control and benefit most from the global market. They comprise the Anglosphere, Western Europe and Japan. China and India are not core countries.
Australia has the twelfth largest economy in the world, according to the World Bank, ranking behind China at second (even though EU is actually larger), Japan at third, India at seventh and South Korea at eleventh.
However, by GDP per capita, Australia is a far wealthier country, ranking in seventh position globally, far ahead of any of the other Asia-Pacific countries except Singapore at ninth spot. New Zealand is next in 21st place, Japan ranks at 24th, China is at just 72nd place and India is at a very low 139th.
In terms of quality of life, Australia ranks second globally by Human Development Index, outpacing New Zealand at ninth, Japan at 20th, China at 90th and India at 130th.
For technological advancement, Japan and Australia are very close in the international rankings, at 11th and 12th place respectively. New Zealand is a little further behind at 19th, and neither India or China make the top 30.
China is one of the least innovative countries on Earth, and generally just copies other countries’ technologies. China has banned most major western social media, news media and business websites, to the point where the Chinese Internet is more a domestic Intranet.
In terms of education rankings, Australia is again at the forefront in second place among all countries, ahead of New Zealand at seventh place and Japan at 17th place. China is at a very low 91st and India lower still at 135th.
When these and other factors are compared, it can be seen that Australia rises above other countries in the region, but one factor makes Australia stand out more than any other – the countries in the Asia-Pacific region generally don’t trust each other, but most seem to trust Australia more than any other country. It is partially due to the fact that we stand out in the above mentioned categories and partly due to the fact that we are more politically stable than any other country except New Zealand.
If you are still not convinced that Australia is the de facto leader, look at the history of the region. Australia is the country that everybody turns to in times of crisis.
Every year since the 1990s, Indonesia has turned to Australia for its expertise in fighting the industrial forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo. No other country in the region has the capacity or expertise to deal with fires on such a large scale.
When Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines in 2013, it was Australia that the Philippines turned to for assistance. Australia was the only country with resources and training to assist the Philippines in its time of need. The Philippines rejected China’s offer because they did not have the know-how to assist, and nobody wants China’s military poking around during territorial disputes.
During the search for MH370, it was Australia that led the search. China tried to muscle its way in as the search leader, but it soon became apparent that they were more hindrance than help – the just did not have the capacity to do the search, and other nations refused to allow Chinese naval vessels into their territory for fear of espionage.
While in reality we are the country that everybody can depend on, we have so far failed to assert ourselves as a great power in the region. We have the opportunity and capacity to do that, if we invest in the right infrastructure.
Australian agricultural groups predict that we will miss out on $2 trillion of food exports to Asia by 2050, simply because we haven’t built the infrastructure to do such exports. China in particular has poisoned their land and water, and don’t have the capability to grow enough food to feed their own people. Other Asian nations have the same problems because of overpopulation.
Australia has a small population and large unpopulated areas that could produce the amounts of food needed if water was diverted to the areas. No other country in the region, or perhaps even the world, has the land, infrastructure, wealth and expertise to produce such vast amounts of food, and we should capitalise on that.
We could move water from northern Australia to inland NSW, South Australia and Victoria, to help solve the problem of farmers regularly battling droughts. The land north of the Tropic of Capricorn would be ideal farmland for such a project. The mining boom is over, and that is a good thing.
During the mining boom, we were dependent on China to keep buying from us. During an agricultural boom, China would be dependent on Australia for its survival.
Great powers and superpowers develop because they have something desirable to offer. Australia has a lot to offer as the de facto leader of the Asia-Pacific – things that other countries in the region don’t have. To become a great power, and the major influence in the region, we need to offer Asia the one thing it doesn’t have enough of to survive – food. Our government needs to act on this now.
- Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea (triblive.com)
- One Killed, 7 Abducted in Pirate Attack in Southern Philippines (gcaptain.com)
- Japan to accept only 300 refugees over 5 years (euronews.com)
- Senate seals PH-Japan social security agreement (rappler.com)
- 6 dead, dozens injured in powerful earthquake in southern Philippines (fox6now.com)