Disruptive Asia

Our new publication on Asia's rise and Australia's future

We are pleased to present our new publication Disruptive Asia: Asia’s Rise and Australia’s Future — a collection of 20 essays on how Asia’s ascendancy and regional dynamics are changing Australia, and how Australia is responding.

From the first steps towards greater political and economic relations with Asia in the 1950s to a full embrace of the "Asian Century" in the 1990s and 2000s, Australia’s engagement with the region has been framed as one between a distinct outsider and a culturally and politically different region. By 2017, six of Australia’s top trading partners are in Asia. Asian-born migrants make up a third of the overseas-born population. Australia now educates almost half a million international students, mainly from East and South Asia.

As the strategic and economic weight shifts from West to East, and trade, migration, cultural confluence and digital and people-to-people connectivity intensify, Australia is becoming an integral part of the changing Asia. To understand what it means for Australia, we asked 20 experts and practitioners of Australia-Asia relations: Is Asia's rise the biggest disruption Australia has ever faced?

The result is Disruptive Asia. Edited by the award-winning journalist and author Greg Earl, it presents a wide range of perspectives on both domestic and external aspects of Australia’s connectivity with Asia against the backdrop of the shifting balance of power in the region, uneven economic growth, acute health and environmental challenges, and the rapidly growing mobility of people, technologies and capital.

The publication coincides with the Asia Society Australia’s 20th anniversary in 2017 and the development of the Foreign Policy White Paper, commissioned by the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

We hope that Disruptive Asia will be a live, on-going conversation about Asia and Australia’s future in the region. We welcome partners and supporters to help us develop this initiative.

Download Disruptive Asia



Join the conversation on Twitter (#DisruptiveAsia) and subscribe to our newsletter.

Excerpts from 'Disruptive Asia' have been published by our Media Partner, The Australia Financial Review in the lead-up to the official launch.

Philipp Ivanov

CEO, Asia Society Australia


Australia. Disrupted

Philipp Ivanov, Chief Executive Officer of Asia Society Australia

Will Australia maintain its dynamism and be an integral, active and agile member of the Asian community of nations? Or will it let itself be shaped by external forces and drift to the periphery, watching the unfolding drama of power and wealth playing out northwards?

An edited excerpt of this essay appeared in the Australian Financial Review on Friday, 12 May 2017.

Download the essay

Read This: Chinese Language Media is Part of the Story

Professor Wanning Sun, Media and Communication at the University of Technology Sydney

The more migrant community members are regarded as equal partners in the political and social processes of the nation, the more likely they are to fulfil their own duties and responsibilities as Australian citizens, and identify with and embrace the democratic values of their adopted country. The Chinese community is no exception to this.

A full version of this essay appeared in the Australian Financial Review on Friday, 9 June 2017

Download the essay

China’s Innovative Nation and What it Means for Australia

Professor Bruce McKern, UTS Business School

China is emerging as an innovation superpower. Can Australia benefit from this disruptive transformation?

An edited excerpt of this essay appeared in the Australian Financial Review on Friday, 9 June 2017

Download the essay

Asia’s Democratic Dividend is Hard to Bank

Greg Earl, Editor and Writer

The new Asia poses a challenge to Australian diplomacy and to the way ordinary Australians view the region. We have long supported greater democracy and freedom but when we see it up close we can be wrongfooted or even repelled.

An edited excerpt of this essay appeared in the Australian Financial Review on Friday, 19 May 2017.

Download the full essay

No Longer at the Centre: Australia's Real Relationship with Asia

David Epstein, Non Executive Director; Board member, Asia Society Australia

Despite geographic proximity to South East Asia, Australia cannot claim any particular advantage, other than as a resource and energy supplier, over other advanced western economies when it comes to insights or entree into wider Asia. Australia is not at the centre. And the stream of history and present trends are against it.

An edited excerpt of this essay appeared in the Australian Financial Review on Friday, 5 May 2017.

Download the full essay

Time for a Plan-B on Living with China

Linda Jakobson, Founder, CEO, and board director of China Matters, an Australian public policy initiative

Close to four decades of constructive and for the most part crisis-free US-China ties have facilitated Australia’s prosperity and security. However, in the era of Trump, Australia can no longer rely on this ideal two-pronged existence.

Download the essay

An Asia Policy for Australia in the Trump Era

Dick Woolcott, Former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ambassador and Founding Director of Asia Society Australia

Australia must focus on our region - South East Asia, North Asia and the South West Pacific. To be effective we must now and in the future follow better balanced, updated policies, rather than try to reinforce long-standing, outdated solutions. The world has changed greatly and we must respond without delay.

Download the essay

Thinking Outside the Box with India

David Brewster, Senior Research Fellow, National Security College, Australian National University

Differences in Australia and India’s history, strategic perspectives, size, wealth and culture create many challenges for the relationship. In practice it will largely be incumbent on Australia to overcome these challenges and think more innovatively about its engagement with India.

Download the essay

How Japan and Australia Can Fill Asia’s Security Gap

Tomohiko Satake, Senior Research Fellow, National Institute for Defense Studies, Tokyo

Japan and Australia are “all-weather friends” who share many common interests. If this is the case, one should expect that defence and security cooperation between Japan and Australia would become even stronger as the regional security environment becomes increasingly risky and unpredictable.

Download the essay

Making Our Own Luck

Andrew Parker, Partner and Asia Practice Leader at PwC; Asia Society Advisory Council member

If we are going to turn the economic opportunity of Asia into a reality, our strategic interests, both economic and security, desperately need to be understood in the context of a bi-partisan, long-term vision for our place in the region.

Download the essay

Connect Don’t Compete with a Rising Region

Martijn Blanken, Group Managing Director and Chief Customer Officer, Telstra

Active involvement in the region – through investment, collaboration and training a new, skilled, global workforce – will see Australia rise alongside Asia, rather than compete with it.

Download the essay

Fast Train Coming: What We Can Learn from Asia

James Rosenwax, Market Sector Director for Cities, AECOM

In this fast-moving globalised world, governments and countries that are agile and respond quickly to change will win, and at the cost of others. This is what Australia can learn from Asia – to be more agile, entrepreneurial and direct in its intent to be a globally significant diverse economy.

Download the essay

Full House: How Property Pressures Impact Intercultural Relations

Dallas Rogers, University of Sydney; Jacqueline Nelson, University of Technology Sydney; Alexandra Wong, Western Sydney University

The rise of Chinese real estate investment is unsettling both the federal government’s geopolitical aspirations and inter-cultural relations on the ground in Australian cities. The pro-foreign investment stance must be accompanied by education about its risks and benefits, policies to improve housing affordability and strategies to protect intercultural community relations in Australia.

Download the essay

Don’t Look Back, Asian Studies Has a Positive Future

Professor Kent Anderson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Community and Engagement), University of Western Australia

The case for the importance of Australia’s engagement with Asia remains overwhelmingly convincing. We might not have as favourable of an environment as the last few decades, but this may be the best time ever to be promoting the importance and relevance of a deep and nuanced understanding of Asia.

Download the essay

Embracing Asia Starts at Home

Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Race Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission

Asia is not something that resides outside Australia – it is also something that exists within it.

Download the essay

Cultural Diversity in Politics and Media Will Create National Prosperity

Dai Le, Founder and Katie Calvey, Director of DAWN

Just as the gender conversation has shifted the dial for representation of women in leadership and has helped shape policies that impact women’s lives, so too can a conversation on culturally diverse leadership help innovate Australia’s policies. 

Download the essay

Digging Deep into Asia for New Ways to Design Cities

John Endicott, AECOM Fellow

Many Asian and Australian cities anticipate a further doubling of their population over the next decades. Doubling a city should also double the amenities, including open space. Can going underground be a solution?

Download the essay

Making Asia Fit for New Growth

Professor Anushka Patel, Chief Scientist, George Institute for Global Health

The story of the remainder of the 21st century will be significantly determined by how we manage and harness continued economic growth to improve the health, environmental and social well-being of our region.

Download the essay

From Food Bowl to Health Food Store

Dermot O’Gorman, Chief Executive Officer, WWF-Australia

The ability to deliver sustainable development is the opportunity our generation must embrace and our best opportunity to do that will be the global economic powerhouse for the coming decades - Asia.

Download the essay

A New ‘Normal’ for Australia and Indonesia on Climate Change

Arjuna Dibley, Sir John Monash Scholar and a research fellow at Stanford University

Collaborating with Indonesia on climate change creates another pillar and new opportunities for Australia’s engagement with our rapidly growing neighbour.

Download the essay

Media Partner: 



Selected essays from Disruptive Asia have been published by our Media Partner, The Australian Financial Review in the lead-up to the official launch of the publication. 

This publication was made possible through the “Desai-Oxnam Innovation Fund” established by the Asia Society to celebrate generosity and almost 40 years of combined service of former Asia Society Presidents Dr. Vishakha Desai and Dr Robert Oxnam. The views expressed in this publication are the authors’ own and do not represent those of the Asia Society. Copyright © Asia Society Australia 2017