There is no "one Asia", and Australia needs to respond to different countries in the Indo-Pacific zone in new and diverse ways, according to the founder of Knowledge Society, Elena Douglas.
Ms Douglas, speaking at the launch of the Smart Power publication at today's In the Zone forum at The University of Western Australia, said Asia represented a diverse kaleidoscope of countries and cultures, each one unique. "As such, we have to respond to countries and markets individually, or we will be ill-equipped to sell there," she said. "No-one thinks of Europe as a monoculture; nor should we do the same with Asia."
Smart Power was commissioned by the PerthUSAsia Centre and produced by Knowledge Society. It evaluates the nation states of the zone using the Smart Power framework defined by leading Harvard foreign-policy analyst, Joseph Nye. Since Nye first raised the notion of ‘soft' power - and then ‘smart' power - this framework has become more important for nations assessing their global footprint. Smart Power = hard power (economics and military) + soft power (culture and norms).
Ms Douglas said a premise of the report was that we as a nation needed to be comprehensively informed by facts. "Facts are sacred. We should understand the demographic data in particular. The things that we can know, we should know and we should really understand them." The evolution of innovations such as robotics and artificial intelligence and their place in factory-driven economies such as China going forward, made it even more important to have a baseline understanding of data and raw facts.
"We've looked at the 18 countries of the zone and run the ruler over things like GDP, productivity, labor markets and so on, and then gone into education, innovation, perceptions about the of ease of doing business, economic freedom, regional architecture, and other factors. It is essential that we understand all of this."
Bernard Salt, commentator with The Australian, raised the issue of soft power as a significant issue going forward. Soft power represents the capacity to persuade and influence, and includes factors such as reputation, brand, and "being a good citizen". Smart Power illustrates this by the revealing of Japan as the biggest aid donor in the zone ($13 billion compared with Australia's $5 billion).
The report demonstrates great opportunities for Australia. For example, two per cent of people in China have a Bachelor's degree, and potential exists for Australia to trade services in this sector. However, it also shows areas of Australia's weakness, such as in our industry research innovation area - a trend also confirmed by OECD research. In 2013 South Korea had 205,000 innovation patents, compared with Australia's 20,600.
Ms Douglas said the positioning of Western Australia as a state of mind that takes its excellence in mining processes and technology and applies it to areas such as medical research would result in greater future prosperity for the state.
Smart Power is available on the In the Zone website www.zone.uwa.edu.au
Leaders from government, business and academia have convened today at this year's In the Zone Leadership Forum at University Club of Western Australia.
In the Zone is The University of Western Australia's premier forum on geopolitics and international trade. A group of outstanding speakers and thinkers will discuss this year's theme Capital Ideas for the Twenty-first Century.
In the Zone is presented by The University of Western Australia together with Principal Partners Rio Tinto, the Perth USAsia Centre and the State Government of Western Australia.
Elena Douglas, CEO Knowledge Society and Bernard Salt commentator The Australian discuss Smart Power at the In the Zone Leadership Forum.
In the Zone is The University of Western Australia's premier forum on geopolitics and international trade. Our ambitious conference series aims to engage stakeholders in Australia and in key Asian cities directly, to encourage networking and collaboration between decision makers across the zone and to share our vision of Perth and Western Australia's place in this dynamic region.
This year, In the Zone has convened two high-profile events, our annual Forum on 1 May 2015, and our first venture into Asia in Singapore on 13 April. Venture Asia extended the In the Zone narrative beyond Perth.
THE ZONE / ~ noun the time zone shared by Perth, 60 per cent of the world's population, and the nations that promise the greatest economic growth of the twenty-first century.
Sonia Nolan (Media Manager, In the Zone ‘15) (+61 4) 01 034 103