Australia in the Asia-Pacific region

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    In 1872 the colonies of Australia were connected to the British imperial cable network and by the time of Federation England was 100 minutes away from Australia, and 80 minutes from China. Although these technological developments made the world smaller, the new nation communicated with Asia and the Pacific region through the British network. This imperial arrangement was symbolic of a general pattern that continued well into the twentieth century. Positioned within the British and then the US sphere, a full Australian engagement with the Asian region was slow. There were individuals who sought to build a specifically Australian relationship with the countries of Asia, especially in periods of heightened regional consciousness. The mid-1930s – with the world economic crisis and the continued rise of Japan – was one such period. The years immediately following World War 2 constituted another. A third occurred in the late 1980s, when the scale of Northeast Asia’s economic potential became apparent. For most of the twentieth century, however, Australians who were concerned about the wider world concentrated on their imperial relationships. Richard Casey, a future Minister of External Affairs, observed in 1928 that information about Asia was ‘vague, muddled and defective’. Even when faced with the Japanese threat in the 1930s, there was little community interest in Asian affairs, and a lack of interest in foreign relations generally.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Australia
    Editors Alison Bashford and Stuart Macintyre
    Place of PublicationUnited States
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    ISBN (Print)9781107011557
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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