Asian Studies Association of Australia Asian Currents
The Asian Studies Association of Australia's e-bulletin
March 2005 | ISSN 1449-4418 | <>

Welcome to Asian Currents

On the first anniversary of Asian Currents, the ASAA would like to thank the Myer Foundation for its continuing support of this e-bulletin and the ASAA's other efforts to promote the study of Asia. The editors of Asian Currents would also like to thank all those who have helped keep the e-bulletin going, in particular its contributors and readers. It is not possible to name them all but it is important to specifically thank two people: Matthew Ciolek at the Australian National University, who has been in charge of all technical aspects of the e-bulletin, making sure that you get your copy each month and Jacqui Levan who meticulously marks up each edition in HTML.

We would also like to remind you that registration is free and open to all by simply registering your email address at .


China and the World Trade Organisation

By Dr Yingjie Guo, Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies, Institute for International Studies, University of Technology, Sydney,

In the lead-up to China's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on 11 November 2001, there were widespread concerns in the media and academia that China as a WTO member would disrupt the international order. It was feared that domestically China would suffer massive unemployment and social instability, which could lead to the demise of the Chinese Communist Party or even the collapse of China. These concerns have proven misplaced. It has become apparent that China and most WTO member states can gain considerably from China's WTO membership.

The domestic benefit of China's WTO membership is quite remarkable. From 2001 to 2004 China's exports doubled, increasing by US$2,000 billion every year, while realised direct investment increased from US$499 billion to over US$600 billion. This year, according to The Economist, China's industrial product market will expand to US$750 billion from the US$376.1 billion of 1999.

More importantly, WTO membership is working to discipline Chinese industries as never before and is forcing China to make its economic systems compatible with WTO norms. This has entailed, among other things, the overhauling of existing laws, regulations and policies at all levels of government. Thus far, over 2,500 laws and regulations have been abolished or amended. A legal framework is now in place to encourage WTO compliance in terms of transparency, non-discrimination, and uniform application of laws and regulations. It remains to be seen how successfully the new laws and regulations are actually implemented not only in the major cities but also in the vast rural areas, where international monitoring has hardly begun.

The international impact of China's WTO entry is no less significant. The admission of a large, transitional economy like China's into the WTO was bound to change the relative positions of its major members and its future course of development. There have been winners and losers. For example, developing countries such as Mexico were particularly hard hit in January this year, when the global system of country-by-country quotas regulating the US$495 billion international trade in textiles and apparel was eliminated. Textile industries in the US and other developed countries are also facing much tougher competition from China.

On the other hand, WTO members have benefited a great deal from the gradual reduction or elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to foreign trade and foreign direct investment. Tariffs on automobiles came down to 43.8% in 2002 from 80%-100%. Tariffs on agricultural products dropped from 54% to 15.6% in 2004. By the end of 2004, China's general tariffs had decreased to 10.4% from 42.7% in 1992.

Other important measures include the application of national treatment to foreign- funded enterprises and foreign products; the abolition of compulsory requirements on enterprises with foreign investment in terms of local content, export ratio, foreign exchange balance and technological transfer; the removal of most import quotas, import licences and subsidies, and of legal and policy-related barriers to the service sectors, including finance, insurance and telecommunications.

As a result, foreign firms now have much wider access to China's domestic market, and this is set to increase further. In 2005, foreign service suppliers will be permitted to establish wholly foreign-owned subsidiaries. Starting from 2006, foreign banks will be allowed to compete with Chinese banks on an equal footing. In 2007, geographical and quantitative restrictions in legal services will be lifted, although foreign firms will only be entitled to work on legal affairs related to their home country or to entrust work to Chinese firms on behalf of their clients. And by 2008, all of China's liberalisation commitments will have been phased in. Hardly the gloomy prospects some predicted.

Useful sources of information:

Cambodia moves closer to establishing the long-delayed Khmer Rouge tribunal

By Helen Jarvis founding member of the ASAA and advisor to the Office of the Council of Ministers, Royal Government of Cambodia. She is co-author (with Tom Fawthrop) of Getting away with genocide? : Elusive justice and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, recently published by UNSW Press.

Next month will mark the 30th anniversary of the day the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh on 17 April 1975. During the following three years, eight months and twenty days- until their overthrow on 6 January 1979-over a quarter of the population perished. Around 1.7 million people died in miserable circumstances of untreated disease and illness, hunger or over-work, or were executed.

In recent months the long-delayed process of judicial accountability for these deaths has moved significantly closer. In October 2004, Cambodia ratified an agreement between the Cambodian government and the United Nations to establish Extraordinary Chambers to try senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge and those most responsible for serious crimes committed during the period the Khmer Rouge held power.

Unlike the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, located in The Hague and Arusha respectively, the Extraordinary Chambers will be established in Cambodia itself and will be an integral part of the Cambodian court structure. However, as befits their name, the Chambers will be far from ordinary. They will integrate international and Cambodian law and will have both international and Cambodian judges, co-prosecutors and co-investigating judges. Cambodian judges will hold the majority at both trial and appeals levels, but that is tempered by a requirement that any decision needs a 'super-majority' and so would have to involve both Cambodian and international judges.

In December 2004 the Secretary-General of the United Nations formally appealed for US$56.3 million, the funds needed for the tribunal to operate over three years. A slow start to the pledging was just one more fallout from the Asian tsunami, as attention and financial contributions were focused elsewhere. But in mid-February Japan made the target much more achievable by pledging $21.5 million (50% of what is categorised as the international share). So far Australia has pledged A$3 million, France US$4 million and the United Kingdom US$1 million, while Cambodia has announced that it will commit $1.4 million from its national budget, in addition to over $6 million in indirect costs.

A pledging conference is expected in New York within weeks, and it is hoped that before the 30th anniversary the Extraordinary Chambers will be on the way to becoming operational. When they take place the trials will be a generation late, but at last Cambodians, and the world at large, may be able to discharge their legal obligation to those who suffered in one of the world's greatest human rights abuses of the 20th century.



This month we profile Professor Kam Louie, Head of the China and Korea Centre at the Australian National University and editor of the ASAA's flagship journal, Asian Studies Review

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

A. I have been interested in studying Asia (more specifically, China) as far back as I can remember. For much of my life, this interest was almost an obsession. It was driven by the fact that I am racially Chinese. I grew up in Sydney's Chinatown, where I was constantly made aware by people around me of another world out there that was exciting and worth discovering. Chinese was not offered in primary school but I was able to study it formally in high school, even though it meant going to classes on Saturdays. I did so for five years and have never looked back. By the time I went to Sydney University, the Cultural Revolution in China was in full swing, and like many young people then, I was attracted to its imaginings of changing the world to become a better place.

Q. What are your current preoccupations?

A. China (in fact Asia in general) is now very much part of the Australian consciousness. My preoccupation (and occupation) is to do all I can to further Australian understandings of China (and Asia). To do this, I continue to explore different aspects of Asian cultures. I publish on a diverse range of disciplines, including philosophy, gender, applied linguistics, literature and Chinese diaspora, because I want to arrive at a holistic picture of China. It sounds clichÈd but my main concern always is to create more understanding between East and West. As well as my own research, I try very hard to encourage and support others in their research endeavours. That is why I engage in projects like being Editor of Asian Studies Review.

Q. How do these fit into the contemporary scene?

A. Clearly, there is now a strong desire in both Asia and Australia to learn more about each other. This is a very good thing. Even in my short lifetime, the changes in attitude have been fantastic. There is now a lot of mutual goodwill between Australia and the region, though motivated mostly by profit. Old-style Orientalism and Occidentalism are on their last legs. However, despite the trend towards more openness and acceptance, racist attitudes and Cold War distrust often attempt to fill moral vacuums generated by ignorance. My hope is that my research and teaching can reach those gaps first and that people can continue to imagine a better world, instead of spouting fears of a clash of civilizations.

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

A. Like many before me, I hope that before long, Asian Studies will not be quarantined in specialist departments or centres in schools and universities. The languages, cultures and religions of Asia should be studied as naturally as the Europeans study each other's language and culture. As the number of 'Asian' Australians increases, the desire to know and understand one's neighbours will be augmented by the desire to discover one's own history. This hope is perhaps utopian. For the medium term, and more pragmatically, I hope that the gains in Asian Studies in Australia in the last couple of decades will not be eroded. And that the hunger for financial gain is translated into a thirst for knowledge and goodwill.

Researcher of the month

Scott Downman grew up in Gympie about two hours north of Brisbane. While at school he decided he wanted to work as a journalist so he embarked on a double major in journalism and major in political science at the University of Queensland. After graduating in 1992 he completed a cadetship at the local Gympie newspaper. Then the desire to see the world struck. Scott travelled to London, taking up a position at TV station Channel 4. He returned to Australia in 1995 and started work with News Limited in Queensland. During that time he was given an assignment in China. He travelled with a photographer throughout south-west China and Tibet for 10 weeks and, as he says, 'my interest in Asian Studies was born'. He enrolled in a subject called Minority Questions in Asia at Griffith University. That course fuelled his desire to know more about Asia and the following year he started a Masters in Chinese Studies. His research topic was Yunnan Minorities in Transition-Modernisation, Identities and the Chinese State. After completing that degree he was coaxed by Professor Colin Mackerras to pursue a PhD and was eventually offered a Griffith University Postgraduate Research Scholarship. His PhD entitled Intra-Ethnic Conflict and the Hmong in Australia and Thailand examines the internal conflicts that emerge in an ethnic community as a result of globalisation and modernisation, looking specifically at the impact of Christian conversion on the Hmong in Australia and Thailand. The thesis is currently under examination.

For Scott, the most exciting by-product of his research was the opportunity to work for a non-government organisation in Thailand that aims to combat the human trafficking of girls and women from Burma and China into Thailand. While conducting fieldwork in Chiang Mai he taught English to staff and students at the New Life Center. Many of the girls at the centre were aged between 10 and 16. Their experiences gave Scott first hand insight into the horrors of human trafficking, sexual slavery and labour abuse. He now works as an advocate in Australia, conducting seminars, workshops and speaking at conferences to raise awareness of these human rights abuses and of the work of the New Life Centre.

Website of the month

The Economics Department of Macquarie University posts a periodical, Burma Economic Watch (BEW), on its website at

BEW aims to provide up-to-date and reliable data, analysis and commentary on the economy of Burma, something which hitherto has been very difficult to find.

BEW is also available via email. For more information contact:

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

Recent article of interest

Ravi Tomar from the Information and Research Services of the Parliamentary Library examines Prime Minister Howard's January announcement of a $1 billion contribution to a newly formed Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development. See

Did you know?

The latest Melbourne Asia Policy Paper has just been published. It is called Trade in Services, Policy Options and Implications for Australia-Asia Relations and was written by Professor Christopher Findlay, Asia Pacific School of Economics and Government, Australian National University. See

Diary dates

WORLD EXPO: March to September in Aichi, Japan. 127 countries and 6 international organisations, along with leading Japanese corporations such as Toyota, Toshiba and Mitsubishi, will take part in the Expo. The Australian Government has committed $35 million to Australia's participation in the event, and has been joined by the Victorian, Queensland and Western Australian state governments and the private sector in preparing Australia's participation. For each month of the six months of the Expo, the business program will feature one of the following sectors: agribusiness; natural resources and energy; biotechnology; information and communications technology; automotive sector; and environmental technology. See for more information about the Australian pavilion.

TSUNAMI RECONSTRUCTION WORKSHOPS: April in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Austrade is organising a series of Tsunami Reconstruction Workshops around Australia. These will include presenters from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and AusAID, as well as Austrade's Senior Trade Commissioners from New Delhi and Jakarta. The seminars will cover the progress of reconstruction planning, how funds are being disbursed, likely arrangements for contract tendering and identify which agencies will take the lead in coordinating projects. They will also provide advice to participants wanting information on ongoing procurement programs operated by multilateral development agencies. AusAID's presentation will focus on the joint management arrangements associated with the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development (AIPRD).


For further information and registration please visit

LABOUR RIGHTS IN ASIA - THE ILO'S DECENT WORK AGENDA Public Seminar, Melbourne, Thursday 7 April. Two representatives from the International Labor Organization (ILO), Mr Kari Tapiola, Executive Director, Standards and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Sector, ILO Geneva and Mr Alan Boulton, Country Director, ILO Indonesia and Timor Leste, will address labour rights issues in the Asia Pacific Region. This event is presented jointly by the Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law, the Asian Law Centre, the Australian Centre for International Business, the Department of Management, the Asian Economics Centre and Asialink. The seminar is free. It starts at 6pm on 7 April 2005 at Lecture Theatre 102, Level 1, Melbourne Law School, and 185 Pelham Street, Carlton. To reserve a seat, send an email to: with "Labour Rights" in the subject line. Or call the Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law on (03) 8344 8924.

IICEF 05 INDIA INTERNATIONAL CAREER AND EDUCATIONAL FAIR, 27 May-6 June 2005. This fair is for institutions wishing to recruit Indian students (especially in South India) for under- and post-graduate programs.,5678

CHINESE STUDIES ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA, Ninth Biennial Conference, 30 June-3 July 2005. Hosted by La Trobe University at the Golden Dragon Museum in Bendigo, Victoria. A special feature of the 2005 CSAA conference will be a stream on the Chinese diaspora in the Asia Pacific. See:

JAPAN-NEGOTIATING THE 21ST CENTURY, Japan Studies Association of Australia 2005 conference, 3-6 July 2005, University of Adelaide. The conference will bring together scholars from Australia, New Zealand, Japan and around the world to share the latest research in the fields of Japanese Studies and Japanese Language Education. The deadline for proposals of panels is 28 February 2005. See for further detail.

IMPROVING POLICING FOR WOMEN IN THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION CONFERENCE, 20-23 August 2005, Darwin. Delegates from Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Asia will explore how policing can better protect women's human rights and strategies to improve the number of women in key decision making positions within policing. For more information go to the Australasian Council of Women and Policing website at

Call for Papers EIGHTH WOMEN IN ASIA CONFERENCE, University of Technology, Sydney 26-28 September 2005. Papers are invited from all disciplines and participants may submit proposals for panels if they wish. You can download the form to register at For enquiries, please email

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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 show national leadership in the promotion of Australia's Asia knowledge and skills. See Maximizing Australia's Asia Knowledge Repositioning and Renewal of a National Asset

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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