Australia’s biggest challenge in relating to Asia is culture.
OUR culture, not theirs.
We have seen it recently with China and our call for an inquiry into the origins of Covid19 – surely a topic for behind the scenes diplomacy but it became a public fight and still bubbles along.
In our culture “if I am right, I will speak up, name and shame”.
In Asian culture, if I am right, I might speak but only “around the bush” and in a way that “saves face” and preserves relationship.
This is no small difference – it is the gulf that divides us from reaching our potential in our region.
“Saving face” is a part of Asian culture – so pointing the finger when something has gone wrong is the last thing we should do – better outcomes come from cultural awareness.
We all know the best diplomacy happens behind closed doors. The above might explain why so much of Australia’s diplomacy is conducted on the front page and the TV news.
This is the first in a series on “Why Australia makes diplomatic errors in Asia”.