AUSTRALIA'S decision to allow about 40,000 Chinese students to stay
on after the Tiananmen Square massacre six years ago is paying off:
They are now helping Australians break into a $450 billion market.
So argues a recent government report, touted in an influential
business daily as the key to "Vaulting the Wall of China."
"Asian Australians are helping us link up to do business in
Southeast Asia," says Michael Backman, author of the study on
Chinese business networks in Asia. "Non-Asian Australians provide
the capital. Southeast Asian Australians provide the networking
skills and cultural empathy. We see them as fantastic economic
assets to open doors."
Most of Australia's 300,000 ethnic Chinese migrated to Australia
within the last decade from various countries in Asia, according to
the report. In Sydney, Chinese is now the most commonly spoken
language after English.
"In world trade now you need foreign cultural skills to compete,
and one way to get there is to value your ethnic minorities," says
Mr. Backman in an interview. "The Japanese and Germans will lose
out in the long run because they don't value their own ethnic
Australia does encounter its share of culture clashes, particularly
in the rural areas. In a town southwest of Canberra, the capital,
for example, storefronts display signs that proclaim "This business
is 100 percent Australian-owned."
But this is still a far cry from Australia 25 years ago, when the
government pursued a "White Australia" immigration policy.
"After World War II, Australia wanted to increase its population
because of a fear of invasion from the north ... and set up a major
immigration program, initially to draw people from Britain," says
Andrew Struik, deputy director of the Bureau of Immigration
Research. Language tests were used to keep those of the "wrong"
race and color out. The policy was not abandoned until 1972.
"Just a generation ago, the White Australia policy was still a
reality in all but the technical detail," said Prime Minister Paul
Keating, as he opened the Global Cultural Diversity conference in
Sydney last April. "Now half of our immigrants come from Asia. The
encouragement of cultural diversity is much more than an act of
benevolence - it is an act of national self-interest," he added.
Soft-spoken Joseph Zheng shrugs off the fact that he is now
"Exhibit A" in the Australian government's campaign to prove that
cultural diversity is good for business. …