Asian Studies Association of  Australia Asian Currents
The Asian Studies Association of Australia's e-bulletin
July 2004 | ISSN 1449-4418 | <>


Asian Currents aims to connect Australia's academic experts on Asia with journalists, policy makers, business people, artists and other educators. By telling you what is happening in the research world, we hope you will be able to make better use of the wealth of knowledge available and that you will recognise the importance of fostering Australia's Asia knowledge.

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Each edition of Asian Currents brings you a short insight into topical issues.

Knowing Asia - Australia's future

Two major addresses during the ASAA conference (29 June-2 July) highlighted the urgent need for Australians to know more about Asia.

Officially opening the conference on 29 June, the Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery, said he could not 'over-emphasize the importance to Australia of a wide community understanding of Asia and the importance of maintaining our tradition of excellence in Asian studies'.

Australia's long term security and prosperity would depend on it 'being seen by the world, and particularly Asia, as a nation of excellence ... above all a nation that the world - including the three billion young and industrious people in the India - China "arc" to our north-wants to engage with because of what we are and what we stand for'.

Major General Jeffery said he had read 'with some concern' comments in the ASAA's report Maximising Australia's Asian Knowledge that Australia's capacity to understand its nearest neighbours and largest trading partners was stagnant or declining at a time when globalisation demanded effective and sensitive communication with the countries of Asia.

Australia's destiny, the Governor-General emphasised, was profoundly interconnected with the nations of Asia. Knowledge of Asian languages and societies was crucial to Australia's capacity to play an effective security role in the region. Studying Asia would 'help to determine the kind of country in which Australians will be living 25 years from now'.

Dr Yu, Chancellor of the University of NSW, spoke to the National Press Club on 30 June. Drawing on his journey of discovery about his own Chinese origins, Dr Yu underlined the importance of Australians learning 'more of our neighbours to the north'. This involved understanding the history of Asia, for example, the arbitrary borders established by colonial trade which had fostered anxieties within Asian countries about outside intentions. It meant going beyond getting the price right when closing a deal by also acknowledging the ethics of Asia and projecting Australia as a good and loyal friend.

Dr Yu commended the ASAA for building and maintaining an important bridge between Australia and the countries of Asia and for its championing of the teaching of Asian languages. He advised the government to plough development dollars into Asian studies both in schools and tertiary institutions and to ensure that its promotion of Australia in the region went well beyond the narrow parameters of trade.

For the full text of the Governor General's speech go to:

For more information about Dr John Yu, see

To read Maximizing Australia's Asia Knowledge Repositioning and Renewal of a National Asset, see

See also the transcript of the talk by the President of the ASAA, Robin Jeffrey, on Perspective (ABC Radio National).

Koizumi survives crucial political test

Professor Purnendra JAIN, Professor, Centre for Asian Studies Adelaide University,

The once highly popular Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi's popularity has waned significantly in recent months. This is clearly reflected in the results of the July 11 Upper House elections of Japan's parliament, held every three years to replace half of its membership.

Of the 121 seats up for renewal, Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party won only 49 seats, a poor performance compared to 64 seats it won in 2001 and two seats shorter than the Prime Minister's own minimum target of 51, a low hurdle that he had set up for himself. The LDP does not have majority in this house, but with the support of the Komeito - LDP's coalition partner ˝ Koizumi will have no difficulty in getting legislation passed through parliament. The LDP's main rival - the Democratic Party of Japan performed rather stunningly well claiming 50 seats, raising once again the prospect of the emergence in Japan of a two-party competitive system.

Given that after a decade of stagnation, the Japanese economy is now showing signs of recovery reflected in consumer confidence, export growth, and declining unemployment, one would think voters would give a big tick to the Prime Minister and his party. Even his eleventh hour arrangements to reunite the former abductee Hitomi Soga with her American husband and two daughters did not produce a positive political result for the Prime Minister.

More than any other, two factors in particular influenced the voters. One is the crisis in Japan's pension system which is on the brink of collapse. A new legislation passed hurriedly last month to rescue the scheme allowing increased premiums and smaller benefits became highly unpopular. The second is Japan's involvement in the Iraq War, an issue on which the Japanese are divided sharply.

With no immediate challenge from within his own party or from the main opposition party, although stronger than before, but far from claiming the reins of power, Koizumi is likely to continue in his position. But his position both within the party and government is undeniably significantly weakened and so has his ability to carry out his promised reforms.

While Koizumi may be secure in his position for sometime to come, this election takes Japan one step closer to the possibility of a two-party system, which remains elusive despite long desired by many. If the Lower House is not dissolved before its four-year term, there will be `double elections` in 2007. It is almost certain that the LDP will remain in power until then. It will be, however, interesting to watch whether the opposition DPJ can excite voter interest through its attractive policies and leadership style and snatch the reins of government. If not, Japanese politics will remain as dull as ever.


This month we profile Chris Hartcher MP, Member for Gosford in the NSW Parliament and Shadow Minister for Commerce.;

Q. When did you become interested in studying Asia and why?

A. The sheer size of Asia and its variety of cultures has always fascinated me. Like so many of my generation, in the 1970s, I had the obligatory stay at an ashram in India (to make it even more confusing I chose one in Pondicherry, the French-speaking part of India). I realized then that you could spend a lifetime studying India alone and still only scratch the surface.

Q. What are your current preoccupations?

A. The political evolution to democracy in China and Indochina. The enormous economic development in the last 20 years, especially in China, but also, to an extent, in Indochina and the political stability that has accompanied it suggests that democratic development is achievable within a reasonable timeframe.

Q. How do these fit into the contemporary scene?

A. I am a State politician and therefore do not have the direct involvement afforded to my Federal colleagues. However, the many Asian groups that make up the great mosaic of multiculturalism in Sydney provide a window into Asian society and its political evolution. I have also made some interesting travels in Asia. In 2000 I went down the Yangtze with a Chinese friend and in 2005 am travelling the Mekong.

Q. What are your hopes for Asian studies in Australia?

A. I am keen to see Australia develop practical links with Asia, especially in sport. While some Australians will take up Asian studies and Asian languages as an academic discipline, the great majority of Australians will only develop an ongoing interest in Asia through areas that are of interest to them. Sport is a significant pathway through which Australians develop an interest along with movies.

For example, Bruce Lee and Asian martial arts have been important vehicles for encouraging the development of Asia-consciousness among many Australians.

Diary dates

The life of Quong Tart

An exhibition, No Ordinary Man. Sydney's Quong Tart : citizen, merchant & philanthropist, is being held from 2 July to 15 August 2004 at Newcontemporaries, Level 3 South (Town Hall end) Queen Victoria Building, George St, Sydney. Quong Tart (1850-1903), was a Chinese immigrant lured to Australia by the goldrush. He became one of the city's most successful merchants and made a significant impact on the social and political scene of late nineteenth-century Sydney.

For further information:;

Arts of India

The 'Arts of India' lunchtime lecture series draws on the expertise of leading scholars, curators, practitioners and collectors who specialise in Indian art. The second term of the program is about to commence and will feature weekly lectures on textiles, folk and tribal art, film and photography and the artistic developments in India from the colonial period to today. Each term includes eleven lectures. New participants can join for a full term or attend individual lectures. or:

'Australia-Indonesia close neighboursÍand good friends?'

The Australia-Indonesia Business Council in Western Australia will be hosting a luncheon on with the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, HE Imron Cotan. The event will take place on Thursday 5 August 2004, at 12 noon, W.A. Club Inc, Perth City. Visit for further details.

China and Australia as trading partners

The Australia China Business Council and China Cluster is holding a luncheon at which Australian Ambassador to China, Dr Alan Thomas will discuss the Chinese economy, and the current and future prospects of the trading relationship between Australia and China. The event will take place on Monday 26 July 2004 from 12.15pm to 2pm at the Banksia Room, Hyatt Regency, North Terrace, Adelaide. For more information contact the Australia-China Business Council at:

2004 Indonesia Update - Natural resources in Indonesia : The economic, political and environmental challenges

Coombs Lecture Theatre, ANU, Canberra, 24-25 September 2004. For details and registration:

ANZ missionaries, at home and abroad

The 1st Biennial TransTasman Conference on Australians and New Zealanders in Christian Missions, at Home and Abroad, will take place from 8 to 10 October at the New Lecture Theatre, Coombs Extension, Australian National University, Canberra. See Conference Organiser, Ian Welch:

Editing workshop 14-16 October

The ASAA and Flinders Asia Centre are sponsoring an editing workshop from 14-16 October 2004 for postgraduates interested in editing an edition of the magazine, Inside Indonesia. The workshop is free, and a small number of scholarships are available to cover travel costs. Scholarships will be awarded competitively on the basis of proposals submitted by 1 September. Interested postgraduates specialising in Indonesia can get more information about the proposal and the workshop by contacting

Current perspectives and new directions in foreign language teaching and learning, National University of Singapore, 1-3 December 2004

The CLaSIC 2004 conference aims to bring together academics, researchers and professionals from Asia and beyond for an exchange of insights on current and future developments in foreign language teaching and learning. Special attention will be paid to ICT, multimedia and foreign language learning. See

Cultural and religious mosaic of South and Southeast Asia : conflict and consensus through the ages

A regional conference co-hosted by IAHR and UNESCO, New Delhi, 27-30 January 2005. See

You are welcome to advertise Asia-related events in this space. Send details to:

Researcher of the month

Anne E. McLaren ( is a Senior Lecturer in Chinese literature, language and cultural studies at the Melbourne Institute of Asian Languages and Societies, University of Melbourne. She has published extensively in the popular culture of late imperial China, women's performance narratives, gender studies and Chinese marriage systems. Anne received the ASAA 2003 Award for the most outstanding article published in the ASAA's flagship journal, the Asian Studies Review. Her article, 'Mothers, Daughters, and the Socialisation of the Chinese Bride' (Vol. 27:1), focussed on the advice mothers gave daughters before getting marriage, which has been preserved in an oral tradition of bridal laments. This is one of a series of studies Dr McLaren has completed in the oral and written culture of Chinese women.

More recently Dr McLaren has edited a book, Chinese Women : Living and Working (ASAA's Women in Asia series, RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), which deals with women working in new domains of employment in China's burgeoning market economy. Topics include the impact of economic reform and globalization on Chinese women at work in family businesses, management, the professions, the prostitution industry and domestic service.

The Asian Studies Review publishes refereed articles of the highest quality on all aspects of Asian studies, including history, economics and literature, as well as popular culture, health science, environment etc. See or contact

Website of the month

The Faculty of Asian Studies at the Australian National University has created a news website which draws on the BBC, World Press Review, All Headline News from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, as well as Chinese and Japanese language news sites. For a one-stop Asia news site, visit

If you would like to nominate a site which contributes to the maximizing of Australia's Asian knowledge, please contact

Did you know?

The leading Hong Kong based company, Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited has entered into a partnership with the Australian Government to support university students from Australia and Asia to study in each other's home environments. Each party will contribute A$2.25 million over three financial years, starting in 2004/05, to fund 300 undergraduate scholarships and 120 postgraduate and postdoctoral research fellowships. Two-thirds of these subsidies will be allocated to exchanges with the mainland of China and the Hong Kong SAR. See

Recent article of interest

A global power shift in the making

James F. Hoge, Jr. the editor of the prestigious journal, Foreign Affairs, gave a lecture at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. in April 2004. An adapted version appeared in the July/August edition of Foreign Affairs. It argues that Washington must take heed: Asia is rising fast. It growing economic power is translating into political and military strength. The West must adapt - or be left behind.


What would be useful for you? Human interest stories, profiles of successful graduates of Asian studies, more news about what's on, moderated discussions on topical issues? Asian Currents is still taking shape. If you'd like to mould it to your needs, send your ideas to

About the ASAA

The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) promotes the study of Asian languages, societies, cultures, and politics in Australia; supports teaching and research in Asian studies; and works towards an understanding of Asia in the community at large. It publishes the Asia Studies Review journal and holds a biennial conference.

The ASAA believes there is an urgent need to develop a strategy to preserve, renew and extend Australian expertise about Asia. It has called on the government to establish a Council for Maximizing Australia's Asia Knowledge and Skills (C-MAAKS), chaired by an outstanding Australian, to oversee a strategy to preserve, renew and extend Australian expertise about Asia. It has detailed this proposal in Maximizing Australia's Asia Knowledge Repositioning and Renewal of a National Asset. See

Asian Currents is published by the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA), thanks to a grant from the Myer Foundation made to assist the ASAA promote the study of Asia in Australia. It is edited by the ASAA's promotions agents, Francesca Beddie and Peter Rodgers.

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