Asian Studies Association of Australia Asian Currents
The Asian Studies Association of Australia's e-bulletin
August 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.

The potential for collaboration in the ICT sector between Australian and Korean companies

Hyung-Min Kim, Honorary Research Fellow, Monash Asia Institute, Monash University,

It has been argued in some official reports that Australia with its strong basic science infrastructure is a natural partner with Korea, which has a long and successful history of adapting new technologies to industrial production processes. Does this kind of complementarity exist in cutting-edge Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)?

The answer is yes.

An extensive list of indicators can be used in defining the level of competitiveness in the ICT sector, based on the level of capability in technology acquisition, technology creation, technology dissemination, and technology use. In this regard, among OECD nations, Australia and Korea are competitively positioned to gain mutual benefits from their complementarity in the sector with the areas of human resource development and innovation systems representing comparative strengths for Korea, while those of ICT infrastructure and business environment performing stronger in Australia.

There is already evidence of bilateral technology collaboration in the sector. Companies that have benefited from joint technology collaboration include Samsung, KT Freetel, Hansol PCS, Hutchison Telecom Australia, PowerSource Software Pty. Ltd.

Further promotion of bilateral collaboration in technology could lead to:

DFAT maintains a site, TradeWatch which provides current information about trade and investment. Here is the link to the Republic of Korea page:

To see what the ASAA has published in its East Asia series go to:

Private women entrepreneurs and family ties in china

Minglu Chen, Institute for International Studies, University of Technology Sydney, who is interviewing private women entrepreneurs in three Chinese provinces at different levels of economic development.

Although the private sector of China's economy is gaining in importance, the Party-state still maintains a firm hand on allocating credit and granting licenses to enterprises. It also remains a major source of information and technology. Thus, in order to gain advantage in business, private entrepreneurs have to build up special relationships with the government. Indeed, for women in the private sector, it appears that being close to the state could be a pre-requisite for success.

Interviews with private women entrepreneurs in the northern Chinese county of Jiaocheng conducted in 2003 and 2004 revealed that while not actually Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members, 96.7 percent of the interviewees were wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, daughter-in-laws or sister-in-laws of CCP members, with the majority connected to various levels of government by family ties.

With such extensive family connections to the Party-state, these women had access to state-controlled resources and did not encounter much discrimination in establishing and developing their business. Though only a small proportion of them said they had never felt disadvantaged by their gender, they ascribed most of their difficulties due to their double burden of work and household, as well as the traditional view that women should be more family-oriented. Some thought women entrepreneurs' businesses were adversely affected by individual character defects. The interviewees who did experience discrimination and bias in their business had no or fewer family ties with the CCP and government departments.

To conclude, preliminary research shows that women entrepreneurs related to CCP or the government with family ties run their business more smoothly and easily than those who do not have such political resources.

The ASAA's Women in Asia publication series recently released Anne McLaren's volume Chinese women: working and living which has several chapters on women in different sectors of the Chinese economy including teaching, information technology, business, domestic work, politics and sex work. The book is published by Routledge. See


This month we profile Penny Wong (, a Labor Senator for South Australia. See also http://www.aph.

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

A. I was born in Sabah, Malaysia so I've always had a deep personal interest in Asia. A lot of what I know about Asia has been learned by living in Malaysia and from my father who is Malaysian-Chinese.

One of the important things you understand more easily if you have Asian heritage is that it isn't always helpful to talk about Asia as if it is amorphous and homogenous. Asia is comprised of different ethnicities, cultures and languages and any study of Asia must work from that fact.

I believe the study of Asia is fundamental to Australia's future. Our future economic prosperity and security requires wholehearted engagement with our region.

Q. What are your current preoccupations?

A. We've come a long way in the last thirty years. However, we still have a lot to learn about the region to our north. I would like to see government provide schools with the resources to teach Asian studies and Asian languages. In addition I would like to see the Federal Government engaging more actively with governments in our region.

Most of all, I would like Australians to understand the importance of engaging with Asia, and of gaining a better knowledge of our region.

Q. How do these fit into the contemporary scene?

A. Under the Howard Government, funding for NALSAS was slashed making it difficult for schools to support Asian language studies. This should be unthinkable given where our future lies, in terms of our economic prosperity and security.

There has also been a cooling of relations with our neighbours arising in no small part from John Howard's continued playing of the race card. This has not been received well and gains that have been made in terms of business relationships have been made in spite of this Government, rather than with its support.

The Howard Government's approach has not set a positive tone for the rest of the country to follow. It has the potential to create a fool's paradise where we think Asia is not really important and its people don't care about how we think of them.

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

A. I'd like to think that one day in the near future all Australian children will learn an Asian language at school and have some familiarity with Asian cultures.

I'd also like to see a greater focus on Asian studies at universities. It seems only sensible to me that disciplines where there is the potential for cross-cultural contact should include an element of Asian studies in their curricula. This goes for business, law, human services, and engineering among other areas. However, it appears to me that with increasing financial pressures on universities, Asian studies somehow has become a luxury when it should be a necessity.

The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Security, Kevin Rudd, has opened a petition on Asian languages in schools.

Researcher of the month

Trudy Jacobsen ( lived as a child in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and in Cambodia (with months off for school in Brisbane where she graduated in 1991). She then worked with the Supreme National Council of Cambodia and Save the Children Fund Australia before joining the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) Human Rights Component. An about turn took her into the world of entrepreneurship, where she ran a restaurant and started a 'Jim'll fix it' company called the Lone Arrangers until moving to Kazakhstan in July 1995 where she became a DJ at a bilingual radio station. Back in Australia in 1996, despite speaking Indonesian and Cambodian, she set out to do degree in European Studies, having learned Russian in Kazakhstan (she already spoke French), but soon gravitated towards Asian history courses. Her honours thesis (awarded the Devahuti Prize for Asian History at the University of Queensland) was on political legitimation and Buddhism in Cambodia. By this time it had become clear to her that research into pre-colonial Southeast Asia was constrained by language, because nobody was learning Old Javanese, Sanskrit, or Pali. So Trudy took a postgraduate degree in Sanskrit (which she has also taught at the University of Queensland) and started to explore the intersection of gender and power in early Southeast Asian history. Her paper on autonomous queenship in Cambodia between the 1stand 9th centuries has generated much discussion. (See Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, (restricted access))

A forthcoming paper tracing the relationships between sovereigns of the 'Angkor' period proves that they were all connected through the female line and were not usurpers, as many historians had assumed. This would suggest that greater attention to women's influence on the way that power is accrued, concentrated and wielded is necessary in contemporary consideration of governance in Southeast Asia. Trudy is now a Research Fellow at the Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance at Griffith University. Her PhD thesis, Threads in a sampot: A history of women and power in Cambodia, has recently been accepted for publication. Thanks to a Swedish School of Advanced Asia-Pacific Studies Visiting Fellowship she is now working on Indonesian governance reform, Buddhism and democratic institutional development, and the intersection of minority and gender rights in development policy.

Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance at Griffith University:

Website of the month

Australian Development Gateway (ADG) has just been launched. It was created to improve access to quality development-related information by people engaged on development issues. It covers six key sectors: agriculture; education; governance; health; information and communication technologies; and water and sanitation. The Gateway was established under the umbrella of the global Development Gateway Foundation, and is part of an international network of over fifty country gateways. Users are encouraged to: provide their own, or their organisation's details to develop a community of development practitioners, provide information on their aid activities, submit quality information on one of the above sectors that may assist others working on development, participate in 'Ask the expert' sessions and in sectoral discussion forums.

Did you know?

The ASAA made a submission to the Flood Inquiry into the Australian intelligence agencies. The Report of the Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies is now available at

The report notes that 'the need for first-class analysts with a depth of experience cannot be overstated: the great wealth of information available through intelligence collection, diplomatic and published sources, and through Australia's network of intelligence alliances can give optimal value to government only when assessed by analysts with appropriate contextual understanding' (p.111). Elsewhere it says that 'high-level skills in key languages are an essential asset for the collection agencies…, fundamental to their ability to operate effectively' (p. 160). These conclusions echo points made in the ASAA's Maximising Asian Knowledge report

Recent article of interest

On 2 August The Canberra Times reported that the ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope had called on the Federal Government to reverse its drift away from support for Asian languages in government schools. The Chief Minister said he had been moved to action after a visit from the Indonesian Ambassador, Imron Cotan, who was concerned the weaker focus on Indonesian in the education system. The Chief Minister also acknowledged a gift of resources from the Chinese Embassy to Belconnen High School.

Diary dates

TREASURES OF BRUNEI DARUSSALAM 4 August - 4 October 2004, National Museum of Australia, Canberra. This exhibition opens a window on the vigorous sea trade that was taking place around Southeast Asia before Europeans arrived. The collection of trade ceramics dates back at least to the early 16th century, recovered in 1998 from a wreck site 40km off Brunei Darussalam. Entry is $8 adult; $6 concession; $5 child; $16 family. For more information telephone: 02 6208 5000 or go to

RENEWABLE ENERGY IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES 24 August, Melbourne. The Australian New Zealand Solar Energy Society (ANZSES) and Asialink invite you to join Stewart Craine (Hydro Tasmania), Bob Fuller (Melbourne University) and Matt Walsh (Engineers without Borders) to discuss: international and national policies to create a larger market for renewable energy; renewable energy business opportunities in developing countries; keys to developing successful cross-country partnerships; emerging and existing technologies; and personal experiences in the field. Tuesday 24 August 2004, 6pm for 6.15pm start - 8pm, Yasuko Hiraoka Myer Room, First Floor, corner Swanston Street and Monash Road, Parkville, $5 Concession or ANZSES/Asialink Member; $10 Non-Member. To RSVP or for any further enquiries please contact Li Choong on: (03) 9872 1525 (during business hours) or by email at:

THAILAND UNDER THAKSIN: ANOTHER MALAYSIA? 2 September, Murdoch University, Perth. Professor Pasuk Phongpaichit, Chulalongkorn University, will present a public seminar on 2 September at 12.30 pm in the Senate Conference Room as part of the series, Conflict, security and political regimes in Asia presented by Murdoch University's Asia Research Centre and Politics and International Studies Program. And on 23 September Dr David Wright Neville (Monash University) will talk on Losing the Democratic Moment: Counter Terrorism in Southeast Asia. Enquiries and further details: Mrs Tamara Dent, 08-9360 2263, Email:,

2004 Indonesia Update, 24-25 September, Canberra: NATURAL RESOURCES IN INDONESIA: THE ECONOMIC, POLITICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES; Coombs Lecture Theatre, ANU, Canberra. Details and registration (the conference is free of charge): The publication arising out of last year's conference Business in Indonesia: New Challenges, Old Problems (Indonesia Update Series, ISEAS & ANU, 2003), edited by M Chatib Basri and Pierre van der Eng is now available for purchase. See

LIES, CONSPIRACY AND PROPAGANDA, 26-27 September, Canberra. This conference at the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University, will examine conspiracies, real and imagined, along with the lies and propaganda which are used on the one hand to conceal reality and on the other to create suspicion and mistrust. Registration form and provisional program at

ANZ MISSIONARIES, AT HOME AND ABROAD, 8-10 October, Canberra. 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, Adelaide. 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, 1-3 December, Singapore. The CLaSIC 2004 conference at the National University of Singapore 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 lasic2004/.


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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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