Faraway So Close!: The Effect of Asian Values on Australia's Interactions with East Asia

By Baba, Gurol | Insight Turkey, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

Faraway So Close!: The Effect of Asian Values on Australia's Interactions with East Asia


Baba, Gurol, Insight Turkey


Introduction

Beginning in the 1990s, several discourses emerged to interpret the existence and virtues of Asian values, two of which constitute the starting point of this research. The first one focuses on East Asia's major cultural commonalities. The second one explains how these commonalities have contributed to East Asian economic development. This research merges the two in order to accentuate two dimensions of Asian values: the psychological "P" (cultural and intellectual) and the pragmatic "P" (economic and commercial). For the Asian Values literature the two "Ps" mark almost a new dichotomy, particularly in terms of interpreting a non-Asian actor's interactions with the region. Asian values are mostly analysed as Confucian projections of Asian, specifically East and South-eastern, commonalities. Yet the research on the two "P"s skews this angle, by merging various discourses on Asian values, and aims to cast a light on how Asian values operate inter/intra East Asian interactions.

The 2 "P"s operate in East Asia both independently and complementary. The psychological dimension has an intellectual and cultural value, which claims the exclusiveness of East Asia and its distinctiveness from the "West." The pragmatic dimension has an economic and commercial value, which almost discards East Asia's supposed distinctiveness, and initiates and sustains East Asia's commercial relations with non-Asians. The values represented by the two "P"s complement each other in terms of supporting East Asia's economic development and maintaining the level of development within the East Asian framework. This research aims to provide clues so that non-Asian powers can approach the region with more Asia-compatible policies and deepen and broaden the spectrum of their relations across the region.

One of the non-Asian powers that stands to benefit from this analysis, which enjoys a significant geographical but relatively less cultural proximity to East Asia, is Australia. The Australian case study illustrates how, for non-Asian actors, the psychological and pragmatic elements of East Asian culture are necessarily two sides of the same coin. It also reveals the type of interactions of a non-East Asian country that are hindered by the influence of Asian values, when not understood.

The seemingly symbiotic nature of the 2 "P"s highlights the fact that Asian values do not create an exclusionist tendency, or an "authentically Asian" way of doing business; rather they generate flexibility in the region in terms of economic and commercial interdependencies, and keep the communication and business channels open for non-Asian actors. Yet, for diplomatic and political relations, Asian values have a restrictive effect on non-Asians. Australia's reluctance to brandish its "Asianess" (and as a consequence engage seriously with Asian values) has restrained Canberra's strategic thinking about the changes in Asia and their resulting challenges, particularly when relations among the Asian Giants are problematic or tense. This limits Australia's political and strategic weight in the region.

To alleviate the limitations caused by the influence of 2 "P"s, simply understanding Asian values may not be sufficient for non-Asian actors,

as can be seen in the Australian example. They need to both understand and integrate these values into their diplomatic practice, and demonstrate a more culturally/ psychologically Asia-oriented approach through their strategic and political relations with the region. Such an effort will enable Australia and other non Asian actors to be welcomed as more equal partners by East Asia, and will also increase their space to manoeuvre during a crisis among Asian giants.

Asian Values in Practice: The 2 "P"s

A great deal of post-Cold War IR literature has focused on the role of the peculiarities of Asia's rise, namely the "East Asian miracle." The developments (2) unearthed cultural, commercial and even psychological elements peculiar to East Asia, which are known collectively as "Asian values. …

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