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Asian century: Realigning policy with the opportunities


THE AIM OF THIS ARTICLE is to look at the significance of Asia in this 21st century and survey how PNG, as an emerging economic power in Pacific region, should realign her foreign policy.

This implies reorganising political, economic and strategic thoughts and resources to navigate through an uncertain environment with the strategic aim to gain the most optimal outcome.

The Asia-Pacific region is dynamic and becoming the geo-political, geo-economic and geo-strategic heartland of academic debate. The rise of China followed by India has structurally shaped States’ foreign policy behaviour.

Most analysts are questioning whether the current liberal order constructed by America would be replaced by rising China. If assumptions hold true, a ‘Sino-centric order’ with new rules of game, the ‘Beijing consensus’, will replace the ‘Washington consensus’.

Whatever the debate, our primary concern is we are now in an Asian century where Asia will play an important role in shaping international politics and global economic affairs.

Asia is seen as the lifeblood of international economic activities and interaction. The peaceful rise of China has been tagged as the ‘centre of gravity’ attracting massive investments since the mid-1990s.

Others, especially US allies, have seen this as a political manoeuvring towards ‘economic hollowing’ – where the more China gains in relative sense the more it shrinks the power of the US.

The rise of China and India has also influenced a structural transition towards a multi-polar world with the emergence of new actors such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

Most analysts (especially Western policy makers and scholars) argue that the formation of BRICS is a political move replacing the liberal order for the benefit of developing countries. The first 2013 BRICS Summit will focus on establishing a financial bank for developing countries.

The South East Asian nations have progressed well since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. PNG’s closest neighbour, Indonesia, is trailing behind India, whilst the outlook for Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam seems promising.

The north-east Asian states, South Korea and Japan, are well advanced and provide business opportunities in international trade.

The rise of China has been assessed carefully by the US and its allies. China’s soft power diplomacy is characterised as smart as it gains grounds in Asia and the Pacific. Its peaceful expansion and influence through massive foreign untied investment and aid is calculated as challenging American supremacy in its traditional backyard.

The military modernisation of China has been under constant scrutiny by the US. While the ‘China Threat Theory’ is an ongoing debate, whether China is a real threat remains unclear. But China’s burgeoning economic supremacy has spurred global and regional economic growth and provided immense opportunities.

PNG has gained significant regional and global prominence with an uninterrupted decade of unprecedented economic growth fuelled by stable political environment, macro-economic policy regime, and LNG projects and minerals.

As a result, PNG has attracted foreign investment in a rapid fashion. This is evidenced in her increasing role in international relations such as participation in high level political and economic summit diplomacies.

There is also increased technical cooperation with Asia, including in trade, commerce, school education and higher education. PNG has signed agreements with the Thai government while making a commitment to establish a permanent Embassy in Thailand. Also last month, prime minister O’Neill announced PNG will supply Japan with LNG, signifying PNG’s growing role as an important player in the global energy market.

The significance of Asia in 21st century warrants a major shift in the way PNG conducts its international relations. A white paper on Asia outlining PNG’s strategic focus and targets is necessary.

The significance of the Pacific to PNG must not be left out of this. Over time, the Pacific has become less important to our national interest. Pacific regionalisation, although important, may not necessarily serve our strategic intent.

However, PNG will continue to maintain her traditional ties while manoeuvring into the Asian century. This strategic intent was affirmed by prime minister O’Neill’s recent statements at the Lowy Institute in Australia.

The Asia White Paper in should cover this strategic calculus:

Geo-political strategies (understanding political behaviour and political manifestos of countries in Asia which are of strategic interest; political cooperation at a higher level to maintain and strengthen ties; cooperation with new partners)

Geo-economic strategies (foster international trade and economic cooperation in countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea including human capital development in areas of science and technology and innovation, public policy, politics and economics, and establishment of Confucius institute)

Geo-strategic strategies (build and strengthen security or strategic cooperation in areas of capacity and capability power projection with China, South Korea, Japan, India and others deemed strategic)

These are generic or overarching strategic goals which can be further explored and addressed by way of a white paper.

The rise of Asia in the 21st century is indisputably most promising in global and regional affairs. Countries have realigned their foreign policies to harness the opportunities presented by this dynamic region.

PNG must develop an Asia White Paper on how she should maximise national interests given the opportunity presented. Although the Pacific remains our traditional focus, the strategic interest remains less compared to Asia.

Francis Hualupmomi holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Jilin University in China. He is a geo-political strategist and analyst. Email


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Mrs Barbara Short

Francis, have a look at the Sydney Morning Herald News Review 8-9 June 2013, for an article by John Garnaut, "China inside out".

John worked as the SMH's China correspondent for the past 5 years. Hopefully he will write a book about his experiences. But for now we are starting to see his summing up of modern China.

One paragraph stated - "I had seriously underestimated the extent to which the Communist Party had inoculated itself against the values and institutions of the European Enlightenment that underpinned capitalism in the West. The webs of patronage, bribery and thuggery that had so shocked me in Beijing's western hills extended into the political machine. The tools of coercion, co-option and censorship - so effective in revolution and keeping the party in power - were being deployed for the benefit of individuals within the elite."

Later he wrote - "China is on a path towards becoming a mafia state."

I remember Somare being the first overseas foreign leader to be invited to China after the revolution. They produced a wonderful film of that visit.

I recently spoke to a journalist who was on that trip and he said they were scared stiff most of the time.

I realize that PNG people are now being given scholarship to go and "study" in China but, having been in touch with one of them during his time there, and having been able to see the way they tried to indoctrinate him, I feel I must say "Watch out! Know who you are dealing with!"

Corney Korokan Alone

Papua New Guinea need not get herself into a "Pandora's box style" foreign diplomacy framework.

The world is open for business. We must choose the good from any continent(s) of the world, not just emerging or emerged nation states or region.

I am under no illusion to understand the evil axis that lurks around Foreign Direct Investment Houses and/or banks that drive their agendas and are certainly unforgiving in their quest for dominance – in anything and everything once the door is flung wide open for them.

This decade is an opportune moment for PNG to set up its own our Sovereign Wealth Fund right - with little scope for partisan interests diluting its aims and purposes.

Then we can trade, and do business with anyone willing to respect us and play transparently with any nation state who understands "mutual interests" too well to “be seen to be exercised accordingly”.

Suzie Maki

Asia has now become a center of attraction where nations and countries around the world are shiffting there attention to. This rise of Asia will bring greater benefits and also some disadvantages.

In the case of PNG, we are rich with abundent supply of natural resources, and still our people in the rural areas need better services and development.

The PNG governments should spot an opportunity for our country to participate in the Asian century. PNG depends a lot on foreign aid and investment to gain development.

Agriculture as mentioned by Bernard is an interesting sector for PNG. From ancient history, our forefathers were great gardeners, up to now people in the village still do gardens to earn income, which they supply their surplus to sell and most importantly for their families to help sustain their lives.

In addition we need stable, visionary smart leaders to navigate the nation to such opportunity.

Bernard Singu Yegiora

Steve, very good discussion. Good to see that you are reading about China.

Your question: Does the rising military strength of China pose a threat to PNG?

China portrays itself as a benign nation with its foreign policy centered on the five principles of harmonious co-existence.

Also, the golden rule of ‘means’ preached by Confucius advises; “not to do unto others what you do not like them to do unto you”.

This explains the Confucian pacifist culture where the act of war was only permitted for self defense to counter the adversary’s first blow.

Unless PNG decide to attack China then we will see China as a threat.

Otherwise, I believe the rising military strength of China is not a threat to a country which is 100 of miles away from China.

Maybe the Philippines or Vietnam sees China's rising military strength as a threat because of their geographical proximity and tussle for the islands in the South China Sea.

Francis Hualupmomi

China was never colonised by western powers. She was only invaded by western powers and the Axis of powers, especially Japan. Thanks everyone for your comments on this strategic thinking.

Steve Gallagher

Chinese have contact with the Pacific before the first half of the cold war era but have no formal ties with the Pacific island nations, in the second half of the cold war era, China’s policy was centered on bilateral relationships and in the late 1990’s China began to emerge as an important player in the South Pacific region, but her involvement in the South Pacific regionalism remain little. Jian stated that the diplomatic game with Taiwan to get vote in the United Nations for “One China Policy” and the Chinese desire for raw materials from the South Pacific Island nations (economic interest) was the two main factors for its participation in intergovernmental activities.
China’s approach to the South Pacific is different from that of Australia and New Zealand, China is just a follower in the region despite having the capabilities to influence and take lead in promoting regionalism. In some sense, I would like to say that China is rational; she is respecting the sovereignty of the South Pacific island nations to avoid criticism and resentments from Pacific Islanders. China is also rational on its relations with Australia and New Zealand, the two important players in the region. Australia and New Zealand are important to China’s interest, having good relations with them will be an advantage for her diplomacy in the region.
China is implementing its key foreign policy goal i.e. to create a peaceful external environment conducive to her economic development. Instead of getting on a realist zero-sum competition for dominance, Beijing will find it more beneficial to cooperate with Australia and New Zealand on South Pacific regionalism. Jian concluded that China’s involvement in South Pacific regionalism can be an opportunity for the Pacific Island Countries (PIC). Before one can understand the Chinese diplomacy, it is vital to know the historical background of China’s involvement in international relations so one can make better judgment. PNG is in the South Pacific region and whatever that is happening in the region is a matter of concern to her.

China a nation once colonized by the Western powers had now risen to be the second largest economic power in the world. Some scholars and think tanks are predicting that in the near future, China will topple United States to become the leading economic and military power which the United State is enjoying today.

Does the rising military strength of China pose a threat to PNG?

Steve Gallagher

The "peaceful rise" or "development diplomacy" is a new and unique foreign policy that Beijing applies in international relations in the 21st century.

This new diplomatic approach has attracted many developing countries to have good relations with China.

Some developing countries are eager to trade and allow Chinese investment because they benefit more from tarding with China than other developed nations.

China uses its untied aid as a tool to pursue it forein policy objectives, economic and strategic interests.

If we closely look at China's New Diplomacy, it is unique.

I am saying that it is unique because China has military capability to pursue its national intersest but yet China tend to use peaceful means unlike US and other European powers who uses their military superiority and economic power to instigate civil wars and create instability in other sovereign states for their national interests.

If we look at China's diplomatic approach in all regions of the world, from Africa, Middle East, Latin America and of coure our very own region the South Pacific, we will see that China is respectful of other nations sovereignity.

Therefore, for PNG to have economic and strategic cooperation with Beijing is vital and it should be encouraged.

You do your own research coz I might be kidding you.

Bernard Yegiora

With coffee, PNG needs to compete with Vietnam.

The department of agriculture and livestock needs to have a system in place to encourage coffee farmers to grow more crops and look at transporting arrangements for isolated areas like Karamui in Simbu and Salt Normane where Francis Nii is from.

Continuous research on the crop by Michael Dom and his friends at NARI will also improve the crop's production and growth.

Bernard Yegiora

I asked Quentin about the possibility of PNG coming up with a similar white paper and his response was 'we are not ready'.

We need to tidy up our backyard before we engage with Asia. Tidy up mean reorganise the sleeping giant, the agriculture sector.

Agriculture is a key element in the Australian white paper. For example the rise of Asia's middle class means that they will demand for quality and more agricultural products like wheat.

PNG's agriculture sector is all over the place.

Our strength is in coffee and tea. As Asia's middle class grow they will develop that coffee culture evident in Western countries thus the government needs to create a pathway for coffee entrepreneurs like Jerry Kapka owner of Kongo Coffee to enter the Asian market.

For people to people relations we need more technical exchanges and, as Francis mentioned, the government in conjunction with UPNG or DWU need establish a Confucius institute because China is the engine room for Asia's growth.

The Australian Asian Century White Paper is a wonderful document.

Bernard Yegiora

Rational choice.

Quentin was tasked to read the Australian Asian Century White paper and find out why Australia came up with the road map.

He presented his research on Tuesday (23/04/2013).

The Australian Asian Century White Paper was a case study in a course of mine called: PG214 Asian influence in the Pacific.

Quentin Talingapua

Looking at the global scale, this century is the Asian Century. This is the century where the world will witness Asia's rise and its dominance.

Asia's influence to it's neighbouring regions is immense, particularly the Pacific region and Australia.

Australia saw Asia's rise as a tool to help them in achieving their goals, so they came up with the white paper policy which acts as a road map for Australia.

Their government was smart in way where their decision was based on rationale decision making.

In order for PNG to develop an Asian white paper our government must be smart in a way where the cost and the benefits must be calculated so that we avoid future problems.

In that way we can maximise our national interest when the opportunity is given to us.

Francis Hualupmomi

I appreciate both your comments, and take note of Benard's suggestion.

Bernard Yegiora

Thank you Nigel and Chris for commenting.

As students of International Relations I want you both to read more to expand your knowledge.

Nigel Gagau

I think it’s good they should come into power because the way they are cooperating with the economies in some parts of the world is brilliant.

But then I would say no. Why? Because these people can also cheat us, just like they are doing it to some countries around the world, an example is the Madang people and some shop workers.

So I still say no for them to come into power.

Chris Kumie

Thank you Francis Hualupmoni for the wonderful update of the country’s progress.

The current trend ‘Rise of China’ in the 21st Century has becomes a key focus on many scholars and students studying International Relations.

It has had a huge impact on the global community as it shifts its attention from West to East.

China is using soft power as a vital tool to influence other states by giving aid in the form of soft loans, grants and other technical exchanges.

Most of the countries in the Pacific depend very much on Chinese aid as a major source of income to develop their nations.

For us in PNG, we must formulate our foreign policy in line with the current trend so we are not left out.

Again it’s a very good and interesting update of the current trend that most of us studying International relations need for our major research and other assignments.

Therefore, I encourage you to publish more of the current issues on the PNG Attitude blog.

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