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Asian Security: Views from New Zealand

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23 September 2011 15:57

Jocelyn Woodley is Executive Director of CSCAP:NZ, a New Zealand Forum of researchers and experts on security issues.

Earlier this year, Michael Wesley said 'this will be a world of endless manoeuvre – a world of competitive cooperation'. 

There's been a lot of work done at various Australian institutions, including the Lowy Institute, on changes in the strategic balance in Asia and what 'competitive cooperation' might mean for Australia. Over this side of the Tasman, there's been relative silence. That's partly to do with the scarcity of think tanks in New Zealand.

But just like Australia, New Zealand's prosperity is hitched to Asia's. And like Australia, New Zealand's security could also be affected by risks and dilemmas sourced in Asia. Six of New Zealand's top ten export markets are in Asia – seven, if we add Australia. New Zealand's population contains more and more people with Asian heritage – if trends continue, one in six New Zealanders will have a family link to Asia by 2026 (see research commissioned by the Asia New Zealand Foundation). 

These economic indicators and connections get some airtime in the New Zealand media and public consciousness. But there isn't much in the way of general awareness of how New Zealand could be affected if tensions in Asia escalate. Or about what, if anything, New Zealand could do to influence events that could have an impact on it. 

The way New Zealand sees the world is not identical to Australia's view of things. Size, geography and history result in distinctive though usually compatible perspectives. But because of these differences in perception, New Zealand needs its own home-grown range of views on how to respond to changes in Asia.

CSCAP:NZ has tried to fill the vacuum and spark a debate with a report looking at the implications of changes in Asia for New Zealand, entitled 'Projecting our Voice'. Let us know your thoughts (to jocelyn.woodley@vuw.ac.nz) – we'll be publishing significant responses.   

Photo by Flickr user teachernz.

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