Asian Studies Association of Australia Asian Currents
The Asian Studies Association of Australia's e-bulletin
Maximising Australia's Asian Knowledge
January 2008 | ISSN 1449-4418 | <> for the plain copy (no images) of this issue please click here

Sponsored by ARC Asia Pacific Futures Research Network

In this issue, brought to you by our new sponsor, the ARC Asia Pacific Futures Research Network

The ARC Asia Pacific Futures Research Network (ARC APFRN)

About the ARC Asia Pacific Futures Research Network

Asian Currents is pleased to welcome a new sponsor for 2008 the Australian Research Council - Asia Pacific Futures Research Network (ARC APFRN). The network’s goals are to provide stimulus for innovative research that makes links across disciplinary and area boundaries to enhance Australia's interactions with and knowledge of the Asia Pacific region.

Throughout the year the ARC-APFRN provides funds for projects that enhance the network objectives with priority given to projects that address the signature theme for the year. The 2008 signature theme is Crossing Borders of Cultural Meanings in the Asia Pacific (culture and religion). Round 1 grant applications are now open.

For more information please visit

Message from the President

Welcome back to Asian Currents! I am delighted to announce that we are able to continue publication for a fifth year thanks to our new sponsor, the ARC Asia Pacific Futures Research Network, convened by Professor Louise Edwards of the University of Technology Sydney, and a great supporter of the Asian Studies Association of Australia.

2008 is UNESCO’s International Year of Languages. Both sides in Australian politics have recognised that Australia’s Asian language capacity has been seriously depleted, leaving government departments and the private sector scratching for competent bilingual staff with a deep knowledge of both Australia and an Asian country. Although Prime Minister Rudd has a strong personal record on the language issue, and the new Rudd government has signalled that it will increase funding for foreign language teaching, the direction these initiatives will take is still far from clear, particularly in the higher education sector. The ASAA will continue to argue for the imperative of maximising Australia’s Asia knowledge.

Robert Cribb (


  • Asian Studies Association of Australia:
    Message from Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, on the celebration of 2008, International



by Luca Tacconi, Director, Environmental Management and Development Program, Crawford School of Economics and Government, Australian National University

Indonesia was the focus of global media attention in December 2007 as it hosted the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Bali.

One of the major items on the agenda of the Bali meeting was the issue of deforestation and forest degradation. Deforestation accounts for almost 20 per cent of global annual greenhouse gas emissions, while there is significant uncertainty about the emissions from forest degradation. Deforestation is mostly caused by conversion of forests to agricultural uses and, to a lesser extent, as a result of timber and firewood extraction. Forest degradation is due, to a significant extent, to logging.

Southeast Asian countries are major contributors to this problem. A global ranking based on United Nations data sees Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines among the top twenty deforesting countries. With an annual deforestation of about 1.8 million hectares, Indonesia is second only to Brazil in terms of areas being denuded of trees.

The Bali meeting agreed on the need to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in order to lower carbon emissions and limit climate change.

This represents a significant step forward because deforestation and forest degradation were not included in the Kyoto Protocol, the legal instrument that supports the implementation of the current UN climate change process, which will expire in 2012.

The market for carbon emissions (so-called carbon credits) is expanding by several billion dollars a year. Asian countries could receive significant financial benefits from reducing deforestation and forest degradation, if the agreement that will replace the Kyoto Protocol allows them to sell carbon credits rather than earning income from agricultural and timber industries.

There are, however, many challenges on the road to a reduction in deforestation and forest degradation. First, it is highly uncertain whether the market price of carbon credits will be high enough to justify different business operations. Visitors to Indonesia and Malaysia are probably familiar with the large expanses of oil palm and timber plantations that replace forests. These are very profitable enterprises. The financial benefits from selling carbon credits may not match those from plantations.

Secondly, those who rely on forest clearing may apply political pressure to resist more environmentally sound projects because their profits would suffer.

Thirdly, it is not obvious that rural people who rely on forest clearing would benefit from avoided deforestation projects. These people usually have traditional customary rights to the forests they clear for agricultural purposes, but those rights are not often officially recognised.

Projects aimed at reducing deforestation could therefore limit the options available to rural people to improve their livelihoods, with the benefit of these projects instead flowing to those holding officially recognised rights to the land.

These issues are at the centre of research projects starting in 2008 and involving Australian and Asian researchers. The projects will provide critical information to governments on how to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation whilst providing development benefits to the people who most need them. To monitor their progress, go to



This month we profile Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies and Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University and Visiting Fellow, Lowy Institute of International Policy

Q: When did you become interested in studying Asia and why?
A: I got interested in Asia twice. The first time was at the age of 12, when on a whim I enrolled to study the Indonesian language in my Melbourne secondary school. It was 1965, and we were proudly told that ours was the first class ever to study Indonesian at secondary school in Australia. My motives for this choice were driven more by a contrarian instinct to avoid the standard Latin and French than a sense of strategic destiny. But as that Year of Living Dangerously progressed, and the news from Indonesia impinged dramatically even on the torpid brain of a pubescent public-school boy, I began to realise just how interesting and important this place was ? and how strange.

Alas my innate incapacities as a linguist were outweighed by a fledgling interest as a strategist, and after three years Bahasa Indonesia and I parted company. It was not until my late 20s that I got interested in Asia for a second time, when I arrived in the Office of National Assessments, with nothing but some philosophy under my belt, and began a career in strategic affairs. There my lifelong interest in Asia was restarted.

Q: What are your current preoccupations?
A: My primary interest at present is in the way in which Asia’s international order will evolve over the next few years and decades as it adjusts to changing power relativities, and especially to the rise of China. Asia’s peace over the past three decades has been underpinned by a set of stable relations between China, the US and Japan, which have in turn provided the setting for spectacular economic growth. But that growth is now undermining the stable relationships on which it was based. The way relations between the US and China work will have to change: but how? Can the US learn to treat China as an equal? Will China settle for anything less? If not, how can Asia’s peace be preserved? Will we find ourselves in an Asia divided between a US bloc and a Chinese bloc? Are we already moving that way? All these questions pose deep issues for Australia and its relationships with Asia. Do we support the US as it struggles to retain primacy in Asia in the face of growing power? Or do we accept that in future our great ally will be only one among several voices shaping Asia’s order?

Q: What are your hopes for Asian Studies in Australia?
Australians grew complacent about our ability to work effectively with Asians when we thought that American unipolar domination was going to ensure that Asia would evolve in ways that suited us without us having to make much effort on our own account. Now it is clear that Asia in the Asian century is going to be a more complex and demanding place, and Australia will need to work harder to find our way in it. The imperative for Asian studies, so plain to Australia’s post-war generations, should be as plain to us again today.

Student of the month

Mandarin was always one of those gruesomely tedious first year school subjects for Tim Lindenmayer ( ). If you had told him then that he would spend the next ten years engrossed in an immutable fascination with China, he would have laughed in your face, returned to Jimmy Hendrix blaring through his headphones and resumed his stirring air guitar solo.

However, this all changed on a school trip to Beijing in 1997. For two weeks, Tim was ushered down bustling streets, between frantic bicycle swarms and through museums and restaurants, gorging on a mixture of ancient artwork and Peking duck. Tim was amazed at the sensory overload of China, and returned to Australia an avid Sinophile.

In 2003, after a period of intermittent travel and study in China, Tim began his Bachelor of Arts at Monash University, majoring in Chinese and Spanish. In his third year he competed in the Chinese language competition, “Chinese Bridge”, and won first prize nationally.

Having completed his Bachelor’s degree, Tim was awarded a Chinese government scholarship and spent a semester studying Mandarin at Nanjing Normal University.

He developed a profound interest in Sino-Western cultural parallels and travelled through southern China, interviewing young factory workers, to inquire into their concepts of values, success and personal identity.

In June 2007, Tim’s uncle disappeared in the Minya Konka mountain range in Western China. Under these tragic circumstances, Tim once more returned to China to assist in the search for his uncle’s body, translating between different parties and facilitating the bureaucratic process.

Until he returns to Beijing next year to work as an interpreter at the Olympics, Tim remains in Melbourne, completing his Chinese Honours thesis. He breaks up his studies by playing the ‘guzheng’, a 21-stringed Chinese harp and drinking jasmine tea. It’s not exactly the rock star lifestyle he imagined for himself at age 15, but then again, the air guzheng solos look much more impressive!


Chinese Studies, Monash University

Website of the month

The Overseas Development Institute is regularly ranked among the best think tanks in the world. It is based in Britain. Just before Christmas it published a blog to introduce the subject of the Japan G8 in 2008 which, it argues, looms large on the international development calendar.

Recent publication of interest

The Crisis in Timor-Leste, Understanding the Past, Imagining the Future, edited by Dennis Shoesmith. Charles Darwin University Press, 2007. This volume brings together papers presented at a symposium supported by the ARC-Asia Pacific Futures Research Network in late 2006. The symposium examined the historical, social and political causes of unrest in Timor-Leste, and discussed the challenges the tiny half-island faces in managing its petroleum revenues and promoting agriculture, as well as building a cohesive nation state.

Did you know?

An Indonesian artist, Jumaadi, has won the Inaugural $5000 John Coburn Award for Emerging Artists in the 56th Blake Prize for Religious Art. The judges said that to view Jumaadi’s work, Whisper, was ‘like judging the Blake prize itself … like sitting in a gallery of restless stories." See

Diary dates

ASIA PACIFIC WEEK 2008: Building Australia’s Asia Pacific Expertise, 29 January - 1 February 2008, Canberra. During one week of activities graduate students from Australia and the region will have a chance to present their research interests, meet with other students and academics, participate in a wide range of training activities, be introduced to the rich holdings on Asia and the Pacific at the ANU Library and at the National Library and participate in a stimulating program of events including cross-area workshops, keynote speeches, seminars and master classes, film screenings, cultural performances and social events. See

THE CENTRE FOR ASIA-PACIFIC SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION STUDIES (CAPSTRANS) fellowship applications close 4 February. CAPSTRANS at the University of Wollongong is calling for applications from interested scholars for its 2008 Senior Visiting Fellowship scheme and Postdoctoral Writing Fellowship scheme. Applications are competitively assessed. Details can be found at:


THE IMPLICATIONS OF CLOSER CHINA-JAPAN RELATIONS, lecture, 4 February, Melbourne. Asialink invites you to attend a free public lecture by Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale. With Japan and China currently ranked No. 1 and No. 2 for Australian exports, Professor Drysdale will consider what the warming of their political relations means for Australia, the region and beyond. Monday 4 February 2008 from 6pm to 7pm at Theatre 3, ICT Building, 111 Barry Street, Carlton, The University of Melbourne. RSVP to with "China-Japan" in the subject line.

RADICAL ELEGANCE EXHIBITION, 1 November - 17 February, Perth. This is an exhibition of women's clothing by the renowned Japanese couturier Yohji Yamamoto, whose garments have been a significant influence on contemporary haute couture and prêt à porter clothes since his Paris debut in 1982. Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth Cultural Centre, Perth.

KRISHNA - LOVE AND DEVOTION EXHIBITION, 6 October - 16 March, Melbourne. Krishna is one of the most popular of the Hindu gods worshipped throughout Asia and in particular India. The exhibition will explore Krishna iconography, through approximately 70 works including paintings, sculpture, textiles, photography, and jewellery. Asian Tempore Exhibition Space, Level 1, National Gallery Victoria International, 180 St Kilda Road

THE COLD WAR IN ASIA: THE CULTURAL DIMENSION, 24 - 25 March 2008, Singapore. This conference will investigate how Asian actors in the Cold War adhered to certain Cold War doctrines or ideologies and how their cultural perceptions predisposed them towards certain policies or to the political engagement between states and social forces on the cultural front. Venue: Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.

Those interested in participating should submit a 300-word abstract and 100-word autobiographical note by 31 October 2007 to Ms Valerie Yeo at

CRITICAL HAN STUDIES SYMPOSIUM & WORKSHOP, 24-27 April 2008, Stanford University. Call for Papers. Han is a colossal category of identity that encompasses ninety-four percent of the population of mainland China, making it the largest ethnic group on earth. Participants in the first-ever Critical Han Studies Symposium & Workshop will help develop materials to be published in two path-breaking volumes: Critical Han Studies, an edited volume, and the Critical Han Studies Reader, a collection of primary source materials in translation. The deadline for paper and panel proposals is 3 December 2007. For more information contact Professor Thomas S. Mullaney at or James Leibold at Latrobe University:
leibold/ leibold.html

IS THIS THE ASIAN CENTURY? 17th Asian Studies Association of Australia Conference, 1-3 July 2008, Melbourne. The biennial Asian Studies Association of Australia conference is the largest gathering of expertise on Asia in the southern hemisphere. The theme for 2008 invites you to assess how the regions and issues on which you are interested are faring. The ASAA conference is multi-disciplinary and covers Central, South, South-East and North East Asia and the relationship of all of these with the rest of the world. See

TRANSITION AND INTERCHANGE Ninth Women in Asia Conference, 29 September-1 October 2008, Brisbane. The University of Queensland is hosting the ninth Women in Asia (WIA) Conference, to be held from 29 September-1 October, 2008. Call for Papers: Contributions are invited from various disciplines on a large number of themes concerning the lives of women in Asia. Participants are encouraged to submit proposals for panels (with 3-4 papers per panel). Individual proposals are also welcome. Enquiries can be addressed to

ARTSingapore, 9-13 October 2008, Singapore. This contemporary visual art fair is both a trade and consumer fair, and thus a platform for art dealers and galleries to network and foster business relationships, and for art collectors to acquire new works

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


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? 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 Asian Studies Review journal and holds a biennial conference. ASAA and the Centre for Language Studies at National University of Singapore also co-publish an annual supplementary issue of the Centre's fully peer-reviewed electronic Foreign Language Teaching Journal (e-FLT). See

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). It is edited by Francesca Beddie. The editorial board consists of Robert Cribb, ASAA President; Michele Ford, ASAA Secretary; Mina Roces, ASAA Publications officer; and Lenore Lyons, ASAA Council member.

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