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

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Asian Currents aims to connect Australia's academic experts on Asia with journalists, policy makers, business people, artists and other educators. Please feel free to forward this email to others you think would be interested in receiving Asian Currents. Registration is free and open to all by simply registering your email address at . The e-bulletin normally appears in the third week of each month.


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

PM Howard's Japan agenda

by Purnendra Jain, Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Adelaide's Centre for Asian Studies and currently President of the Japanese Studies Association of Australia:

Mr Howard arrives in Japan on 20 April, after a visit to China. This will be his sixth visit to Japan as Prime Minister.

For more than four decades, Japan has been a key economic partner of Australia and is now emerging as a regional strategic partner. Japan's centrality was reaffirmed in early April when Mr Howard said that 'Australia has no greater friend in Asia than Japan'. (See the article of interest below)

The issue of an economic framework leading to a free trade agreement (FTA) is likely to dominate the agenda of this visit. Although Japan imports vast amounts of Australian resources, primary products, food and beverages, either tariff-free or with little tariff only, it maintains strong barriers for some agricultural products, thus disadvantaging Australian farmers.

The idea of a FTA between Australia and Japan began to gather momentum during Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Australia in April 2002. While domestic politics and opposition, even within Mr Koizumi's own party, mean an agreement is unlikely in a hurry, this does not represent a major stumbling bloc for greater trade and investment. Indeed, Mr Howard will be flying the trade flag when he goes to the Aichi 2005 Expo. There Australian companies are showcasing Australian products and trying to capture the Japanese market further.

Japan and Australia are both tied to the United States through security pacts in a hub and spokes framework. Until recently, this framework provided little scope for other bilateral or trilateral cooperation. This is changing with a security dialogue among the three powers now in place. The two spokes and the hub were united recently through a naval Proliferation Security Initiative exercise outside Tokyo Bay. And Australia and Japan are cooperating bilaterally through various defence and security initiatives, including in Iraq where Australian forces will assist Japan's Self Defence personnel.

Mr Howard should not overplay the security connection during his visit. The Chinese leadership has expressed concerns over the emerging relationship between Japan, the US and Australia, construing it as 'containing' China. And as has been seen in recent weeks, anti-Japan feelings in China run deep. Australia must cultivate its security links with Japan firmly but carefully, especially as Japan's two key neighbours - China and South Korea - are also important partners for Australia, and ones which remain suspicious of Japan's intentions.

Despite emerging partnerships between the two in new areas including defence and security, links and ties leading to joint research and educational programs are still limited. Enrolments in Japanese language programs in Australia, as in other Asian languages, have declined over the years, partly through the Commonwealth's funding cuts and lack of new initiatives. It is time the two nations and their corporations invested more in educational and research programs. This is absolutely vital if other links are to strengthen and remain robust.

A century of the Feminist Movement in the Philippines

by Dr Mina Roces, Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales, and publications officer for the ASAA

This year, the Philippines celebrates a century of the feminist movement. In 1905, Miss Concepcion Felix organised the AsociaciŪn Feminista Filipina seeking women's representation in what was still a male dominated sphere - the Board of Education. Then, in 1921, the National Federation of Women's Clubs (NFWC) made female suffrage a national priority. Despite strong male resistance the excellent organisational skills of the NFWC, using its network of 300 clubs all over the country, won women the vote in 1937.

Filipino feminists believe it is now important to document, celebrate and evaluate the activism of the past one hundred years. A non-government organisation (NGO) - the National Network for the Feminist Centennial - has been formed to lobby President Gloria Arroyo to declare 2006 as the centenary of the women's movement, with a series of celebrations, publications and gala events. One of the prime movers of the NGO is president of the Women in Media Now grouping, so the activities to date have had full media coverage and have been widely discussed.

It is very tempting to view the past hundred years with frustration. Women are still marginalised in official political power, making up only 11 per cent of politicians. The feminisation of poverty testifies to the few advances women have gained. As women hold the purse strings they feel added pressure when prices go up. Scholars have observed that they respond by sacrificing their own needs to those of the family.

But despite these setbacks, one of the striking characteristics of the feminist movement over the past century has been the extent to which women have organised themselves. There is now more organising than ever before, including transnationally. This has been critical in lobbying for women's rights and on women's issues. In January 2005, for example, the Gabriela Women's Party led demonstrations against the national legislature's plans to raise the EVAT (Expanded Value Added Tax) to 12 per cent. The President is still being urged to reconsider this move.

Many women's organisations have international links, particularly because of the huge Filipino diaspora. These organisations defend Filipino women's rights in both national and transnational spheres, e.g. Filipino domestic helpers overseas. The tremendous skills of Filipino feminists in organising other Filipino women are well worthy of celebration, one hundred years after women's issues were put on the national agenda.

Editor's Note: The Filipino Senate is examining the EVAT bill this month.


This month we profile Dr Louise Edwards ( Faculty of Asian Studies, Australian National University, and convenor of the ARC Asia Pacific Futures Research Network.

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

A. I started studying Chinese in Canada in 1979. Before this, as a New Zealander, my orientation had been towards Polynesia but when the chance to study Chinese arose it was too exotic an opportunity to miss. China was just beginning to liberalise and there was much discussion about its burgeoning global importance. My interest was thus driven by curiosity and pragmatism in pondering the career opportunities this 're-awakening dragon' could provide. Previous China scholars seemed to be dominated by Missionaries or Marxists so my friends and I naively figured we were the first 'non-aligned sinologists'.

In the mid 1980s I spent a couple of years in China. It was then I realised there was some serious work to be done in giving people outside China insights into this amazing country. The teaching and research aspects of academia offered the best scope for building knowledge among cultures. So that's where I am today.

Q. What are your current preoccupations?

A. I am the convenor of the Asia Pacific Futures Research Network (see funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC). The ARC established 24 networks in late 2004 to enhance research synergies in areas of key national importance. By including Asia Pacific Studies, the ARC recognised that Australia is an international leader in the field. Among the network's tasks are ensuring that current Australian expertise is both transmitted to the next generation and better integrated with the broader public. So my preoccupation is to find ways to enable Asia Pacific scholars to carve out new areas of interdisciplinary and inter-regional importance.

I've also just completed a book that explores the way the Chinese feminist movement cajoled and harangued numerous Chinese parliaments into giving them the vote and equal political rights with men. These were strong and inspiring women who took enormous personal risks in their struggle to build platforms for democracy and sex equality in China.

Q. How do these fit into the contemporary scene?

A. In 2005 the Asia Pacific Research Network is exploring issues of security and governance. It will host a major conference on energy security in the region at Griffith University in August. In future years we will explore media and communication, religion and culture, trade and industry, and health and population. In each of our activities we include a postgraduate and postdoctoral component, as well as industry links.

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

A. I hope we will continue to produce Asian studies graduates who can go out and build opportunities for wealth creation, social stability and social justice in the region.

Looking at the new graduates in Chinese Studies I see a really bright future for Australian engagement with China. Australian universities are producing an ongoing list of graduates with solid foundations in Chinese language and a strong knowledge of China. Moreover, these are graduates with broad professional expertise as well as personal interest. This breadth protects us from the partial views that hampered our appreciation and relationship with China in the past. The integration of the skills brought to Australia by migrants from Taiwan, Hong Kong and the People's Republic of China into every aspect of Australia's society is also increasing our scope for productive, long-term connections with Greater China.

There are, however, areas that need extra development. In recent years South Asia and Central and West Asia have been neglected in terms of both the limited range of languages and specialist studies courses offered to Australian students. We neglect these regions at our peril and I hope that we can address this problem as a nation soon.

Researcher of the month

Jane Orton ( learned to write her first Chinese characters at the age of five, taught by a babysitter who had grown up in China. This and travels in Asia as a student led her to Asian history and politics in her first degree, along with studies in French, German and Philosophy. An honours degree in Chinese was added some years later. Two years teaching at Capital Normal University Beijing followed, and then a PhD on the intercultural issues in introducing Western language teaching methods into Chinese pedagogical settings. Jane is now co-ordinator of Modern Languages Education at the University of Melbourne.

Her work has convinced her that languages are not likely to develop in universities until they are seen to be desirable for jobs. In an endeavour to tackle this problem, Jane joined the Australia China Business Council's Victorian branch, where she was a vice-president for five years. During that time, business education, including languages, was made an item of the Council's mission. The Victorian branch funded the school learners' Chinese speaking competition.

In 2004 Jane published the findings of her research on intercultural issues between Chinese and Australians working together in Australian businesses in China, in Reorienting Australia China Relations, edited by Nick Thomas (London; Ashgate, 2004). Only three out of the 54 Australians interviewed spoke Chinese proficiently, although all daily wished they did. However only Australian law firms and BHP actively sought language skills in addition to professional ability in their staff. This means that many now rely on English-speaking Chinese as young as 30 to be the interpreters of language, culture and business relationships.

In 1997, Jane won a $500,000 Commonwealth project to develop a distance intermediate Chinese language program, Bridges to China, which is now available on CD ROM. The funding body for this project (NALSAS) has since been disbanded. Jane finds this shortsighted given that in a decade or two the whole working world other than most native English speakers is likely to be bilingual. This situation will place monolingual English speakers at a considerable disadvantage.

Jane is editor of the ASAA's e-journal of Asian Linguistics and Languages, published in conjunction with the Centre for Language Studies at the National University of Singapore.

Website of the month

Japan Focus ( is a regularly updated and fully indexed website that offers Japanese and international perspectives on contemporary and twentieth century politics, economics, society, war, and culture. Focus provides translations from Japanese, Korean and other languages, as well as original articles and reprints. This is an important contribution to understanding Japan, especially as, until recently, it was difficult for the English-speaking world to get access to all the innovative, creative, diverse, contentious, and progressive voices in Japanese society.

Subscribers (see the bottom of the website) receive a weekly announcement of the latest articles. Japan Focus welcomes suggestions for contributions and inquiries. For further information, contact Mark Selden:

Recent article of interest

To see the transcript of Prime Minister John Howard's address at the Lowy Institute on 31 March go to

Did you know?

The University of Sydney has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China to strengthen collaboration. The MOU will expand the work already being done in training science teachers in Chinese universities by allowing six Chinese PhD students to travel to Sydney each year to work with two top scientists at the university.

Chinese Vice-Minister Zhang Xinsheng, who signed the agreement, was quoted in The Australian, saying the University of Sydney was one of the most popular destinations for the 45,000 Chinese students who studied overseas each year and he would like to see more student exchanges in subjects such as urban planning, architecture and Chinese studies.

He said education exchanges, and the sharing of ideas that comes from them, were vital to the expansion and strengthening of economic ties between Australia and China.

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.

BALANCING ACT: TAIWAN'S CROSS-STRAIT CHALLENGE, Melbourne, 28 April, 6.30-8.00pm. Understanding the new Taiwan is crucial for managing cross-strait tensions and avoiding the policy choices nobody wants to make. Join a panel of experts, including Dr Malcolm Cook, Program Director (Asia and the Pacific) at the Lowy Institute of International Policy and co-author of the new major Lowy Institute report on Taiwan, to explore the issues. Basement Theatre, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, The University of Melbourne (corner of Swanston Street and Monash Road); To reserve a (free) seat, email: with "Taiwan" in the subject line, or phone 03 8344 4800.

STRANGE FOOD, HOTEL ROOMS AND AIRPORT LOUNGE, Sydney, 28 April 2005, 5.30-7.00pm. Dr Melissa Butcher, Research Fellow, Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific & Consultant, Beasley Intercultural, will present findings from her latest research into the impact of culture and mobility on Australian transnational professionals living and travelling in Asia. She will look at the key challenges they face, as well as the skills they need to develop to successfully manage a mobile career. Macquarie Bank, No. 1 Martin Place. Free but places are strictly limited. RSVP 02 9036 5142 or email

INDONESIA: A NEW IDENTITY: SHORT FILMS, Sydney, 29 April 2005. See five short films: Abrakadabra - on the unravelling of the Aceh peace process; Rebuilding Our Lives - Aceh post tsunami; Ketok; Durian; It's Almost There; and 3022984 - who am I? at Lecture Theatre EGO2, Ground Floor, E Block, College of Fine Arts, UNSW, Selwyn St, Paddington, Sydney from 6pm to 9pm.
There will also be a Q & A session with young Indonesian film-maker/producer Lulu Ratna. $10 or $5 for students/other concession. Proceeds to be donated to Aceh and Nias tsunami and earthquake victims. For further information call 0410 716 553.

CONTEMPORARY PERSPECTIVES ON CHINA AND MALAYSIA, Melbourne, 30 April 2005, 6pm. Dr Noordin Sopiee, Chairman and CEO, Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), Malaysia and Christine Loh, CEO, Civic Exchange, Hong Kong, will look at issues pertinent to consideration of Australia's relations with China and Malaysia and the prospect of entering into Free Trade Agreements with each country. Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston Street, Melbourne. Entry is free. Tickets must be downloaded from Ticketmaster: See also

TSUNAMI: OPPORTUNITY IN CRISIS, Sydney, 5 May 2005, 5.30-7.30pm. Seminar hosted by the Australian Health Policy Institute at the University of Sydney and The George Institute for International Health. Key speakers: Professor John Horvath, Chief Medical Officer, Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing; Dr Malcolm Cook, Program Director, the Asia Pacific Region, Lowy Institute for International Policy; Mr Alan March, Head, Australia's Indian Ocean Tsunami Taskforce, AusAID; Dr Stephanie Fahey, Director, Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific. The speakers will address the prospects for healthy long-term sustainable reconstruction and the political impacts for affected countries both domestically and in their relations with other countries including Australia. At Eastern Ave Auditorium, University of Sydney. RSVP: by Tuesday 26 April, to Karen Hayward, phone 02 9993 4560, or

NORTH KOREA AT THE ASIA BOOKROOM, Canberra, 11 May 2005, 6-8 pm. Journalist Bertil Lintner will speak about his new book, Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korea under the Kim Clan. Lintner wrote for the Far Eastern Economic Review from 1982 till its closure in November last year. Asia Bookroom: Unit 1, 54/60 Weedon Close, Belconnen. Contact: or 02 6251 5191;

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, Bendigo, 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, University of Adelaide, 3-6 July 2005. 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. See for further detail.

IMPROVING POLICING FOR WOMEN IN THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION CONFERENCE, Darwin, 20-23 August 2005. 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

Call for papers - INDONESIA COUNCIL: OPEN CONFERENCE, Flinders University, Adelaide, 26-27 September 2005. This multi-disciplinary conference will provide a forum for the presentation of new and innovative work on Indonesia, with particular emphasis on bringing established scholars and newer students of Indonesia together. Registration is free. To register, please send an email with your name, institutional affiliation and email address to by 1 August 2005. Proposals for papers and panels should be received by 16 May 2005 and may be emailed to or posted to: Dr Michele Ford, School of Political and International Studies, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001

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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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