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Australia should play greater role in India/China relations

18 October 2011

Australia should play greater role in developing India/China relations: expert

Australia can, and should, play a major role in facilitating co-operation between India and China, an expert in international relations argues.

Speaking at the launch of the Soft Power Advocacy and Research Centre (SPARC) at Macquarie University today, Professor Naren Chitty A.M. said that while Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had resolved to collaborate on security and trade, there was an opportunity to create much stronger ties through spaces of soft power.

“Soft power” describes the attraction between cities, countries and cultures, and how this is used in public diplomacy and governance. In contrast to “hard power” – the use of force and coercion – soft power exploits attractive and compelling characteristics for a purpose.

For example, the exchange of culture – including films, music and people – can be an effective way of bridging divides, particularly as it is known that Indian films are already popular in China.

“Australia, understandably, wants to see increased co-operation between China and India,” Professor Chitty says. “Despite their past border disputes, that’s entirely feasible.

“China and India are no longer obsessed with GDP growth. Both have begun focusing on other values as well, such as quality, environmental protection, social security and creativity.

“Over the next decade they will increasingly be entering four soft power spaces: co-operation in space, health care, education and poverty alleviation. Australia, through its high levels of development in science, technology, industry, education and media, can play a critical role in developing this relationship.”

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The Soft Power Advocacy and Research Centre (SPARC) at Macquarie University is the first dedicated research centre of its kind in Australia. In particular the centre will focus on relationships between Australia, China and India, and areas where Indian and Chinese cultures overlap, in the 21st Century.

Soft power is an area of emerging global significance and its use in public diplomacy and governance is vital in building future relations between nations, organisations and communities.

SPARC’s upcoming major projects include:

• Tonight’s 2011 Bruce Allen Memorial Lecture by Maurice Newman A.C (Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) “Broadcasting Australia: Antipodal Soft Power”
• A DFAT-funded project with the ABC and Tsinghua University measuring changing perceptions of Chinese journalists and program-makers following exposure to Australian education, culture, science and technology
• An Australia-India Institute-funded project investigating “the soft power dimension to Australia’s engagement with rising India”.
• The SPARC Visiting Professor Program whereby Macquarie University will host an international expert on soft power and international relations in April 2012. The program will involve a series of high profile addresses to a wide variety of public audiences including students, academics, industry, government and media.


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