During World War II, thousands of Indonesians arrived in Australia, brought by the colonial Dutch as they fled Japan’s military advance through Southeast Asia, and Molly Warner wanted to get to know them. She and other Australians established an association that sought ‘[t]o promote cultural relations with Asia … educate Australia about Asia and Asia about Australia, [and] improve the woeful isolationism of so many Australians’. Warner would live those principles, soon moving to Indonesia to work for its anti-colonial revolution; she spent the rest of her life there. This edited collection contains many accounts of similar exchanges − of people, perspectives, capital, and knowledge moving between Indonesia and Australia with rich results. Yet broadly, the Australia–Indonesia relationship remains thin and laced with mutual suspicion.

The neighbours’ differences are plain: one is Western, one majority Muslim, one economically developed, the other developing. Two decades ago, Paul Keating spoke of the ‘web’ of Australian foreign relations being incomplete without comprehensive Indonesia ties. Several Australian ‘Indonesianist’ scholars had similarly been arguing for the benefits of substantial links. Yet those ambitious visions have recently been challenged. Former DFAT official Ken Ward, in a much-discussed Lowy Institute paper, Condemned to Crisis? (2015), argued the relationship will inevitably be fractious and distant, and should simply be managed.

Additional Info

  • Free Article Yes
  • Custom Article Title David Fettling reviews 'Strangers Next Door? Indonesia and Australia in the Asian Century' edited by Tim Lindsey and Dave McRae
  • Contents Category Politics
  • Custom Highlight Text

    During World War II, thousands of Indonesians arrived in Australia, brought by the colonial Dutch as they fled Japan’s military advance through Southeast Asia, and Molly Warner wanted to get to know them. She and other Australians established an association that sought ...

  • Book Title Strangers Next Door?
  • Book Author Tim Lindsey and Dave McRae
  • Book Subtitle Indonesia and Australia in the Asian Century
  • Author Type Editor
  • Biblio Hart Publishing, $161.99 hb, 548 pp, 9781509918164

Australians, Chris Bowen lamented recently, pay lip service to Asia. While millions of us visit every year, it is too easy to skim across the region’s surface. Few Australians speak Asian languages; most know little about our colossal neighbour Indonesia, let alone other ASEAN countries. Making matters worse, there is an astonishing dearth of quality books about Southeast Asia for a general audience. The region contains more than 600 million people; its economy is over $US2.4 trillion. Yet between academic monographs and the airbrushed presentations of these societies which appear in Lonely Planet guides there are comparatively few options. The publication of Michael Vatikiotis’s superb Blood and Silk: Power and conflict in modern Southeast Asia is therefore very welcome. Lip service to Asia is not something that can be said of Vatikiotis. With university degrees in Southeast Asian studies, he has spent thirty years in the region working as a journalist then conflict mediator; he speaks fluent Indonesian and Thai.

Additional Info

  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title David Fettling reviews 'Blood and Silk: Power and conflict in modern Southeast Asia' by Michael Vatikiotis
  • Contents Category International Studies
  • Custom Highlight Text

    Australians, Chris Bowen lamented recently, pay lip service to Asia. While millions of us visit every year, it is too easy to skim across the region’s surface. Few Australians speak Asian languages; most know little about our colossal neighbour Indonesia, let alone other ASEAN countries. Making matters worse, there ...

  • Book Title Blood and Silk
  • Book Author Michael Vatikiotis
  • Book Subtitle Power and conflict in modern Southeast Asia
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Weidenfeld & Nicolson, $32.99 pb, 352 pp, 9781474602013

Competing with Middle Eastern wars, terrorist attacks, and presidential tweets, Asia still tends to receive less attention than it merits. Furthermore, while geopolitical tectonic-shifts are occurring in the Indo-Pacific, it can be difficult to step back from daily headlines to assess the current transformation in its entirety. In Easternization, Gideon Rachman, a Financial Times journalist, argues that an epochal shift in power is occurring from West to East, especially in China. Some significant problems with his execution should not obscure the vital importance of his thesis.

The ‘root cause’ of Asia’s transformation, Rachman tells us, has been its ‘extraordinary economic development’. It began with Japan and the Asian ‘Tigers’ from the 1950s. China and India followed after undertaking economic reforms from, respectively, 1978 and 1991. Economic growth matters because economic power leads to political power: Asian states’ high GDP growth is allowing them to erode the West’s military, diplomatic, and technological dominance. ‘The consequences’, Rachman argues, are now ‘defining global politics’.

Additional Info

  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title David Fettling reviews 'Easternization: Asia’s Rise and America’s decline: From Obama to Trump and beyond' by Gideon Rachman
  • Contents Category Asian Studies
  • Custom Highlight Text

    Competing with Middle Eastern wars, terrorist attacks, and presidential tweets, Asia still tends to receive less attention than it merits. Furthermore, while geopolitical tectonic-shifts are occurring in the Indo-Pacific, it can be difficult to step back from daily headlines to assess the current transformation in its entirety. In Easternization, Gideon Rachman ...

  • Book Title Easternization
  • Book Author Gideon Rachman
  • Book Subtitle Asia’s Rise and America’s decline: From Obama to Trump and beyond
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Other Press, $US25.95 hb, 310 pp, 9781590518519