Thursday, June 24, 2004

About Face: Asian Accounts of Australia

A book by Alison Broinowski, who has also written about Australian perceptions of Asia.

The book details Asian opinions, from some ten countries, about Australia. It's not a fun book. Depressing is how across the board racism is, and how similarly petty we all are. We thought we had a Pauline Hanson problem. You should read what Asians - or rather a certain segment of Asian society - think about us. Lazy, uncivilised, boorish, racist, lower class, stupid. The list goes on.

The most interesting part of the book describes two cases of where Australia and the rest of Asia totally misunderstood each other.

1.) Pauline Hanson. They barely cared in Asia, and just thought of it as an embarrassing internal problem. After all, Asian countries have their own problems with racism.

2.) The East Timor independence vote. There was wide hostility to Australia's involvement, something I never understood. We were seen as aggressors, sticking our nose into something that wasn't our business. Plus the fact we always look to the US for our foreign policy, right over our neighbours.

The book's main point is that we need to start caring more - much more - about our image in Asia. We can't afford to be misunderstood. Nor can we afford not to care what our neighbours think of us.

1 comment:

Giddy London said...

This sounds really interesting: would have been great to have used it as a resource for Asian Studies in English when I was working at CC. There is very little interest in Asia over here... except perhaps economically in China. I know white Australians often tend to reduce talking about Asia to food, but a good example of how they lump all of Asia together over here is the proliferation of restaurants serving "Chinese and Japanese" food!

I thought Pauline Hansen did get some very negative coverage in Indonesia and Thailand, not so much because they were concerned about the racism, but because the media enjoyed the opportunity to paint Australia in such a bad light.