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July/September IWS

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute


East Asia 2020: Visions of a Partnership

By Peter Jennings

Peter Jennings is Senior Adviser to the Minister for Defence, the Hon Ian McLachlan. AO. Before joining Mr McLachlan's office in March 1996. Mr Jennings was Director of Strategic Policy in the International Policy Division. Department of Defence. Mr Jennings has held academic positions with the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Australian National University.

7/it.s is an article tabled at the Gwinyana Forum in November IW7. prior to the Asian Economic Crisis. It deals with the way countries outside Asia will interact with the Asian Community over the next twenty years. It is interesting to note that although vast fttntorseen) changes have occurred in the region since this article was written, the basic concepts of the article remain extant.

East Asian Prospects for 2020

The quarter century to 2020 will expose East Asia to the competing influences of globalisation and regionalism. To the extent these forces represent real policy differences, the key to East Asian stability is for the region to embrace policies encouraging the closest interaction w ith extra-regional powers.

It is only by exposing their countries to the global economy that East Asia will enjoy the political stability needed to encourage the growth of a sense of East Asian identity.

Economic growth underpins regional stability in East Asia. For the region to remain peaceful and promote a sense of cohesion as a community, governments need to encourage high growth. The paradox is that grow th-friendly policies will push East Asia more fully into a globalised economic system.

Continued high growth

Despite recent Financial and share-market uncertainties in East Asia, the dominant view in Australia and elsewhere is that Asian growth rates will continue to be high. The World Bank estimates that, over the next decade. East Asian growth - excluding Japan - will average 6.8 per cent compared with 2.4 per cent for Western Europe and Japan. Growth figures will reduce as countries increase their level of development. However, a continuation of growth rates similar to those the region has enjoyed in the last decade will consolidate East Asia's position as a pre­eminent centre for world growth.

Increasingly, growth is linked to trade. Indeed global trade and investment have grown much faster than gross domestic product over the last decade - a trend likely to continue. And by far the fastest growing trade sector has been trade in services rather than goods. Although trade between East Asian countries is high and continues to increase, future East Asian prosperity will be more than ever linked to its trade with the rest

of the world.

That shows that national policies geared to promoting open markets and supporting the free How of goods and services are necessary to sustain high growth. Such policies will help to further integrate East Asia into a globally focused - rather than a regionally focused economy.

The dramatic increase in trade in services - it is estimated to be 27 per cent of world trade in 2(110. compared to 21 percent now - shows the rapidly structure of the world economy. As economies in East Asia develop, they will need to move more into the services sector. Underpinning this trend has been the rapid advances in communications technology. *

Impact of the communications revolution

The spread of. and increased access to. communications and computer technology will have dramatic effects on the countries of East Asia. Linked to financial markets. for example. the communications revolution means that it is almost impossible for national governments to control the price of local currencies.

It becomes equally hard for governments anywhere to control public access to information.

The information revolution presents some dilemmas for East Asian governments. How is it possible, for example, to foster a cohesive sense of national or regional identity in the face of many competing international cultural forces?

In looking at North Korea now. we are watching the terminal stages of the last country in East Asia that sought to completely control its peoples access to information.

The information revolution is so widespread in its impact that it will become impossible for governments to regulate its popular impact.

July/September /9v«



Journal of the Australian Naval Institute

If that judgment is correct it will have a profound impact on the development of regional cohesion. Rather than the development of a distinct East Asian regional identity there will be a marked blending of cultural and social norms.

There will be distinct national traits but the influence of North American culture and social values will, I think, have a greater impact on people than any tendency to identify as East Asian.

That statement is already true of young people in East Asia today - and they are the people who will lead the region in 2020.

1 have argued that to promote economic growth East Asia must maintain close ties with extra-regional countries, and that the impact of communications technology pushes more in the direction of a Trans-Pacific community than a distinct East Asian identity.

Both these developments would be put at risk if East Asia failed to manage its military and strategic affairs in such a way as to keep the region peaceful.

Role of the US in regional security

Many countries in the region agree that the key factor in maintaining stability is a strong United States forward military presence, backed by a healthy bilateral alliance structure.

The size and shape of that presence may alter over time in response to developments such as the likely unification of Korea and to changes in military technology.

The US military presence acts to dampen strategic competition between the region's major powers - a role that, if anything will become more important after Korean unification.

Nor can this be confined to just North Asia. South-East Asian countries are increasingly interested in the potential impact on their security of North Asian developments.

Sub-regional boundaries are becoming far less effective as "insulators' against the potential impact of security developments in other areas.

So. US strategic engagement is a necessary background to shaping a broader regional security framework, where countries do not believe that their fundamental security interests are at risk and where tensions can be contained.

Mahbubani's regional consensus

Writing in the September-October 1997 issue of Foreign Affairs, Kishore Mahbubani - the Permanent Head of Singapore's Foreign Ministry - argued that

there was a strong wish in the region for the "current geopolitical order to be frozen in place." The security status quo was what was needed to enable an Asia-Pacific consensus to develop. *

I agree with Mahbubani's overall view about the role of the United States, but not with the proposition that these security mechanisms can be frozen.

Changing power relativities between states in East Asia - and between the region and extra-regional powers - mean that bilateral and multilateral security structures will need to be extraordinarily flexible to adapt and manage this situation.

Sino-US relations

No-where is this more obvious than in the need for the United States and China to develop a working relationship which acknowledges each other's vital interests.

The good management of Sino-US relations is the key to future regional stability.

The United States will also have to work harder to develop stronger, more nuanced relationships with countries like Indonesia and Vietnam.

US security leadership may still be essential, but a major difference between the Cold War era and the present is that America needs to work harder at promoting consensus among states - it cannot expect to lead without consultation.

A final point about regional security is that no-one should underestimate the costs of failing to keep the region peaceful.

Regional military expenditure continues to grow. Between 1985 and 1995 regional defence spending increased by 34.7 per cent from US$115.8 billion to US$155.9 billion.

That spending is bringing increasingly capable weapons systems into the region - mostly from Europe, Russia and the United States. *

There is a lag between the region's acquisition of weapons systems and platforms compared with the development of formal and informal security mechanisms to manage tensions.

Russia, India, European Union

1 have concentrated on the United States because of its pre-eminent position as an extra-regional power. However it may be useful to mention some other players.

By 2020 it is likely that Russia may have emerged from a period of self-absorption to become a more active participant in East Asian affairs.


July/September IMS

Journal Of the Australian Naval Institute
The shape of Russian relations with Japan and China will have a major impact on security,

A failure lo manage either of these sets of bilateral relaiions would be a major complicating factor in regional security.

Al present India's security prc-occupations remain firmly focused on its own sub-region. It is difficult to see that changing in the near future. However like Sino-Russian relations. Sino-lndian security must concern itself with a long land-border and a history of geographical disputes.

India's domestic economic, development and political problems are enormous. If it is able to manage these successfully it is likely to become a major economic force in the wider East Asian region as well as a competitor for investment and markets.
Finally. Europe is eager to remain a key trading partner and provider of investment, training, weapons and infrastructure.

It is likely that some in Easi Asia may look to Europe as providing a model for a greater level of political and economic integration.

Over the coming twenty-five years. Asia will certainly develop much more of the mechanical elements of integration - treaties and agreements to facilitate commerce, trade, aviation and communication, easier movements of people and so on.

It will be much harder, however, for East Asia to take the next step to a closer level of political integration in the way the Europeans have.

July/September 1998



Journal of the Australian Naval Institute

'Popular consciousness' of maritime

Australia: some implications for a

national oceans policy development

By LCDR Seth Appiah-Mensah, Ghana Navy Centre for Maritime Policy, University of Wollongong


Australia, the island continent to the southeast of Asia and some 2(1 000 km away from Britain, was totally dependent on the sea for its communications with the outside world. Even major inroads into overseas trade by air freight has not changed the pattern much. Sea-dependence has therefore dictated its defence, trade and exploitation of maritime resources strategies over the years. Much of its maritime culture was shaped hy the geography, isolation and distance front Britain and within the island itselj; albeit not correspondingly as high as its sea-dependence. The development of Australia's Oceans Policy somehow gives the nation an opportunity to bring the influence of its maritime culture to bear on an important national policy with international implications. This paper provides an analysis of the impact of maritime Australia upon the development of an integrated national oceans policy.



n Australian historian has noted that "all major themes of Australian history can be refracted through the prism of its maritime experience:'and ever since Geoffrey Blainey published the Tyranny of Distance, it has been an axiom of Australian history that the nation was principally moulded by the great distances between itself and the outside world on one hand, and within the island nation on the other. Indeed Australians have lived with the sea from the earliest days of Aboriginal habitation and have had their society, both indigenous and immigrant, shaped by maritime experiences and connections of all kinds. Since the first fleet most Australians have undertaken at least one long voyage at sea, either as migrants, tourists or soldiers to their battlefields overseas. Australians also engaged in fishing or sailing, either for profit or leisure. For reasons of wealth, power, sport or sheer enjoyment many Australians familiarised themselves with the coastline in various forms of natural and artificial environments. The influence of the sea reached far and deep into the continent as both production and

consumption were (and still arel profoundly related to, and often dependent on. the seaborne How of exports and imports (Broeze 1998),

Even Admiral Hill's modern qualitative and quantitative analysis confirm that Australia is consistently a sea-dependent nation, after Japan, the United Kingdom and the Scandinavian countries. What is not known is whether the same rating could be given to its "popular consciousness' of maritime affairs (hereafter referred to as maritime culture) were it to be subjected to similar analysis. The relevance of this culture could not have been more apparent than at a time when Environment Australia is awaiting public comments on Australia's Oceans Policy - An Issues Paper, released by the Commonwealth Government Minister for Environment. Senator Robert Hill, on the IxMh May IW8. Clearly, this provides a test case for Australia to bring its maritime culture to bear on this new policy.

It is the contention of this paper that though sea dependence has been and still is crucial to Australia's survival only few Australians fathom the depth of their countries interaction with the sea. The paper, first of all, discusses the sea dependence of the island nation from the lime of its settlement by the indigenous Aborigines to the present. It acknowledges ihe modest achievements of recent strategies to improve the maritime awareness of Australians. While attempting to assess the impact of the maritime culture of Australia upon the national oceans policy it is not the intention of this paper to discuss the policy itself. As maritime Australia encompasses all aspects of human life, this paper adopts a three-core point approach to discuss Australian maritime culture: controlling of sea space, taming of distance and living with the sea (as the world's second element after the land). This leads on to an assessment of the maritime culture in contemporary times and how it is impacting upon the development of Australia's oceans policy.

Controlling the sea space

Australia's relations with and dependence on the sea pre-dates the arrival of the first Beet from Britain in 1787. Many Aborigines used rafts or small boats for fishing and transport before the arrival of the white Australian. Geoffrey Blaincy's well illustrated book.


July/September IWX

Journal of the Australian Naval Institu



The Tyranny of Distance, also gives a vivid account of the European sailings to Australia pre-dating Captain Cook, from the first fleet to the subsequent migrant ships. The island continent which was some 20 (MX) km from England was totally dependent on the sea for its communications with the outside world. Historians do not seem to agree on the reasons for which Britain selected Australia for its convicts. While some argue that Britain primarily considered Australia as a gaol for the convicts.' others submit that commercial strategic purposes weighed heavily in making the choice. While there is still no consensus in sight, this paper identities the entire Australian project in terms of pure British imperial policy. The new colony of Australia can be said to have commenced on the ambition of British imperialism to keep French and Spanish rivals from its commercial and strategic interests in the region; and that the availability of Norfolk Island's pines and flax for mast and sails was an icing on the strategic cake. For while Australia, controlling the sea space for the exercise of naval power was paramount for use of Australian waters. The unique location of Botany Bay, also, made it a port of call on the longest intercontinental routes, particularly from Britain to China.

The significance of the Royal Navy to British imperialism cannot be overemphasised. In those days it was not uncommon in Britain to hear the paean 'it is on the Navy that the nation depends" or words to that effect. Castex (1994 reprint:.t9()> notes that for an island nation like Britain (and Australia for the purpose of this paper) naval superiority was a matter of life and death, representing both a necessary and sufficient condition for survival. Australia's total dependence on the sea as a means of communication, trade and sustenance was no longer questionable and therefore had to address the resulting maritime security concerns. The Royal Navy was the ultimate guarantor of the antipodes-Australia and New Zealand and established an Australian station, based in Sydney in 1859. This was largely seen by many as a token gesture towards regional pre-occupalions about defence and security issues in the Pacific And as McLean1 notes New Zealand was not greatly reassured by this arrangement because it would take too long for British ships to steam to its rescue 1200 miles across the stormy Tasman sea. For the same reason the Australian colonies were anxious about the inadequacy of the force for their own defence.

In 1900. the formation of the Commonwealth in Australia gave it a national ambition to rid itself of imperial defence ties which culminated in the agitation for the formation of the Royal Australian Navy in 1908. A number of Russian scares during the second half of the century and Germany's naval challenge to Britain facilitated the founding of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1911. The RAN began with a battle-cruiser HMAS Australia and four

cruisers. During the outbreak of war in 1914 the newly formed Australian Heel was to play a key strategic role in the Pacific region. HMAS Australia served as an escort to the convoy despatched to seize German Samoa and for the first deployments of Australian and New Zealand forces to the Middle East. McLean' observes that HMAS Sydney demonstrated the value of a regional navy by intercepting and destroying the German cruiser Eithlen not far from the first convoy route. World War I also demonstrated how dependent Australia was on merchant shipping. It is recorded that all Australian campaigns were fought at sea and merchant transport being one of Captain Roskill's (War at Sea Vol 2) three elements' of sea power became the critical means of carrying the An/.acs to Egypt. Gallipoli and France. In many of the wars and conflicts of the 20th century the RAN was active in theatres far from its shores and therefore out of the public eye. The location of these wars often tended to alienate the Australian people from the realism of their contribution; and yet the sailors, often regarded as the patriots of the country's developmental efforts.

The shifting balances in geopolitics and strategic calculations led to Australia's "Monroe's Doctrine', which bequeathed to the nation a leading role in southwest Pacific and the conquest of a modest Pacific empire. In recent times, there has been significant changes in Australia's international position which have enabled it to shift from Britain's traditional European rivals to its regional powers: from Japan to China. Indonesia and India. New patterns of trade, shipping, ports and population have led to the concept of the 'Two Ocean Navy' with increasing homeporting at HMAS Stirling near Fremantle. The defence white paper Defending Australia 1994 clearly indicates the predominance ol Canberra's diplomacy ol Regional Engagement toward Southeast Asia.'

The increasing dependence of Australia on offshore resources has given the RAN the task of controlling the nation's waters as a basic exercise of national sovereignty in support of other civil agencies. The tasks include the protection of its coastline, shipping and resources such as fisheries or offshore oil and gas platforms. The adoption of UNCLOS in November 1994, leading to the declaration of a 200-mile EEZ has also increased the enforcement responsibility of the nation in the ocean space. Though a number of boats have recently been apprehended close to the coast, a few were detected only after they had entered Darwin harbour-suggesting that the Australian coast is porous. This observation will give currency to the debate of the need for an independent coastguard in Australia."

July/September 199S


Journal oj the Australian Naval Institute

Conquest of the sea's vast expanses (taming the distance)

Australia's conquest of the sea's vast expanses and how it is the highway lo subdue what Blainey would call 'the tyranny of distance' is relevant to its maritime-ness. From the beginning while Australia was conceived as an integral part of Britain's imperial economy. All Australian immigrants, import.s and exports for a long time remained solely sea-dependent. Thus the vehicle for 'taming the distance" was shipping with all its indispensables. physical and human elements: pods, jetties, lighthouses, shipyards, seafarers, waterside workers, pilots and custom officials. Historians believe that isolation by distance was one of the moulds that shaped Australia's history. Australia was so far from England that Sydney gradually drifted into Asia's net of commerce, especially the practice of convict ships sailing back to England through Asia opened regular SLOCs between Sydney and Asian ports. The rise of and the importance of whaling, wool, gold and dynamic export industries of the 19th Century gave an unprecedented momentum to the Australian trade (see figure I). By the 1810s the ports of Sydney and llobarl had a high population of American. French and English whalers who regularly called for repairs and provisions. Shipbuilding therefore emerged as the largest and most dynamic colonial industry in the first half of the 19th Century, and Tasmania alone is reported lo have huilt over 4(10 vessels ranging from small cutters to ships of 500 tons. Colonial shipping was the live-wire of the early fishing industry, particularly sealing and whaling. Whaling became the mainstay of the shipbuilding industry.'' For once the

long distance from the old world had profited Australia. The clear advantage Australian whaling and sealing ships had over foreign competitors was closeness to the fishing grounds. That proximity was, for more than half a century, one of the nation's few assets.

The most dramatic revolution in Australian shipping was the introduction of steamship. This enabled faster journeys to be undertaken while maintaining steady pace independent of the weather and wind. The total tonnage of overseas arrivals and departures in all Australian colonics rose from over I million tons in 1850 to 2.1.6 million in 1900; and with about 50* increase from 1909 - 1911. just before the Great War. The British dominated the shipping business from the beginning in spile of Australia's efforts to establish itself, first with the Commonwealth Line and then the Australian National Line. Foreign elements continued to be pre-dominant. particularly P&O. This foreign dominance has helped to make maritime Australia less appreciated by its citizens. To some extent it has kept some Australians ignorant and sea-blinded. The other cause of the apparent ignorance in maritime affairs is traced to the repression of maritime facilities and workers in Australia's historiography, probably because of the militancy of the wharlies and seamen who helped in laming the distance. Broeze observes that '...the wharlies and seamen wrere a living proof that Australia was not a country of conflict-free consensus that conservative orthodoxy preached for so long', liven lo date. Sam Bateman"' argues that irrespective of the major inroads made into overseas trade by air freight in recent decades. Australia still depends heavily upon seaborne trade (See Table I).


' Colombo (I796)-1

Aden(1639) Penang (1786)/

Singapore (1619)

dutch EAsrlxrv^Pu'NEA


Port Easington (1838);

Melbourne Hobart(l804) Wellington) 1840)

Capetown (I BDt>)

TRAUA \ ""j* Brisbane^ '»'•"« (™)

/Sydney (1788)

Mauritius (18)0) INDIAN 0C£AN

Fremande (IB29)1. Albany (1626)

Mapr British imperial or semi-impena! port (year) dace of annexation or occupation



Australia and the port system of the British Empire in the Indian and Pacific Oceans c. IS5I). Figure I (Source: Frank Breeze's Island Nation),


July/September 1998

Another way of laming the distance is the settlement pattern of Australia. Eight of every ten Australian lives in what Blainey calls "The Boomerang Coast,'" which is less than one-tenth of the country's area. The density of the population in the Boomerang Coast is realistic. economically and socially. The concentration of the population and economic activities in one compact area means relatively cheaper cost of transportation of raw materials.

foodstuffs, manufactured goods, and power. By concentrating the population in the Boomerang Coast. Australia spends less in carrying goods and services over vast distances. This provided the simplest solution to the problems of distance on land. However, this high population density in the Boomerang Coast has now become a serious social and environmental issue.


Australia's overseas

trade—mode ol

transport, 1990-





(KM) tonnes


'0(H) tonnes



32 202


304 439








32 365


304 615










35 116





12 616





47 732


52 616


Source: Yearbook Australia 1994. Table 23.3(1. p. 656: Table 23.31. p. 657; Table 23.32. pp. 657-659: Table 23.36. p 662.

The use and enjoyment of sea resources

The sea is a resource harvested through fishing, whaling, pearling and other such activities. The spread of Aboriginal settlement on the continent is believed to have been influenced by fishing. However, fishing did not become an important industry in Australia until the arrival of southern European migrants mostly Italians. Greeks, Portuguese and Dalmatians. The beginning was very modest in the 1860s but grew and had co-operative fish markets in Melbourne (1865). Sydney (1872) and Fremanlle (1891). The major problem identified with this industry then was storage. The Commonwealth Government intervened as early as 1908 to establish a fisheries research program. By 1914 the most important fish products were pearlshell and pearls. Traditional fishing received a boost when (he NSW government commenced the operation of its own trawlers in 1915 and eight years later 17 trawlers landed over 600 tons of fish, mostly shark. In contemporary times the marine industries have diversified in type and value as shown in figure 4. It is estimated that marine industries contribute a total of $30 billion to the Australian economy annually.

Another aspect of living with the sea is through the conquest of the wave and the wind by yachting, surfing or swimming. Since the 1820s regattas, which included sailing-boat and whaling boat races had been organised in Sydney and Hohart. Australia has the second-highest number of sailing-boats in the world after Norway, and yacht clubs can be found around the whole littoral. The diversity of sailing clubs once sharply reflected the divisions in Australia society, but with traditional elites gradually fading Boat building away most of the previously exclusive clubs have become more egalitarian. Despite their increasing international competition and commercialisation, swimming, surfing and fishing have drawn Australians and foreigners to the sand and surf of the country's beaches. Shark attacks and accidents like the drowning of Prime Minister Harold Holt m 1967 did not even dent their enthusiasm. The Shockwaves generated at the advent of the bikini did not 'spoil' the Australian society, although nude bathing raised the 'temperature' of many. By the second half of the century the capital cities of Australia had began to expand seawards with the foundations of suburbs like Bondi. Manly. Coogee. St Kilda. Brighton. Mentone. Glenelg and Cottesloe. They were mainly residential but at the weekends and during summer their beaches were crowded.

July/September 1998


A passive aspect of living with the sea may be considered. It involves enjoying the seashore with its open spaces and varying moods, watching surfers, boats and gulls while walking on the beach or driving past. Offshore islands, lighthouses and ocean-going ships also offer their own unique pleasures. Currently living and retiring to the seaside is one of the major dynamics of Australia demography, as the developments of marina resorts and coastal centres like the Gold Coast demonstrate. Living and working on the coast obviously also has its disadvantages. Improper disposal of waste and pollution along the coast have become major issues of environmental concern. Environmentalism and conservationism became significantly prominent when Australians turned their focus and affection to the fauna of the sea, in particular its coral reefs, seals, dolphins and whales. Ironically, the whales that were hunted in the 19th century have become symbols of conservationism in the 20th century. The campaign for clean seas also raised awareness on the effects of 'ships of shame', bulk carriers and tankers registered in countries which do not enforce highest standards of safely and pollution control. The myriad of activities and interests in the oceans have prompted international and national efforts to properly manage, conserve, exploit and protect the marine environment through integration of some sort. This is what

Australia's Oceans Policy seeks to achieve by asking for public comment (maritime) on the officials' draft, the result of which largely depends on public awareness of the issues involved.

Some Issues of Maritime Awareness in Australia

From the discussion above it is observed that Australia had everything maritime about it. Even, colonial newspapers were replete with maritime news on voyages, whaling, shipwrecks, sometimes sour accusations to impolite captains, commendations for successful captains and foreign goods. This extensive maritime information 'kept the sea central to the colonists' consciousness' and according to Broeze (1998):

Over the next 150 years overseas and coastal shipping, parts and port cities, large harbours and modest outporis, lighthouses and breakwaters, whalers and pearlers, ocean space and naval force, the beach and the lifesaving patrol, swimming and vachting continued to forge the maritime elements in Australia's identity.

The importance of the sea and its associated themes are however conspicuously absent in the artistic

Commercial lishenes and Aquaculture 1.8 billion

Onshore oeiroleom and gas 7 8 billion

Marine tourism and recreaiion (International visilors) 2 billion

r «'

Marine tourism and recreation I

(domestic) 13 2 billion

Shipping Coaslal 0 G billion International t SDulion

Civil ship building 0 8 billion

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