Tag Archives: Australia

Sport, Diversity And Youth In Australia

In order to foster a local multicultural sporting environment, Australia needs to do more than just provide opportunities for young people of CALD backgrounds to participate in sport.

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n Australia, multicultural sporting initiatives have provided opportunities for Australian and migrant youth from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds to participate in local sport. At grassroots level, Melbourne’s non-profit organisation Centre for Multicultural Youth’s boyspace project trains newly arrived males aged 12–25 from Afghanistan in playing soccer, and some of these budding soccer players have won medals in competitions around the state. The Australian Football League (AFL) has given its first Sudanese-born player regular opportunities to play in its professional league. Through the Multicultural Youth Sports Partnership Program, the Australian Government consistently provides grants to organisations to help youth from emerging CALD communities partake in sport.

But do such pretty pictures of aspiring young CALD athletes on-field imply Australia is fully committed to fostering a welcoming, inclusive sporting arena for them? Not exactly.

Incidents in Australia where youths racially vilified athletes on-field point to the idea that not enough is being done to educate this demographic about appropriate moral conduct as a sport player or spectator. In May 2013, a 13-year-old girl racially abused Indigenous AFL player Adam Goodes as he played a pivotal role in one of his team’s games. In similar incidents this year, an under-15 Somalian footballer and 17-year-old Burundi-born soccer player reportedly had racist taunts hurled at them by fellow players while playing in the junior AFL league and grassroots soccer State League game respectively. Such naïve youths in Australia are rather ignorant of respectful codes of conduct for sport. If there actually are programs educating youths on acceptable spectator and player behaviour within school curriculum, they are not wholly getting through to youths.

It is interesting to note that there is a lack of diverse faces representing Australian sport on the international stage at a time when there are increasing opportunities for CALD Australian youths to participate in sport. Often on the media front, Anglo-Centric faces are the faces seen representing Australia at worldwide sporting events.

For example, press photos unveiling Australia’s 2012 London Olympics uniforms featured mainly Caucasian Australian athletes wearing the green-and-gold attire. Anglo-Saxon Australian players frequently dominate Australia’s World Cup and international cricket teams too. In other words, ever since Indigenous Australian Cathy Freeman’s time in the media spotlight as the nation’s coveted Olympic gold medalist sprinter, there are rarely, if almost none, African, Asian, Middle-Eastern, minority faces portrayed in the public eye promoting Australia sporting teams on the global stage. There are in fact multicultural young athletes competing at this level in recent years – Australia’s 2012 London Olympics badminton and table tennis teams boasted under-25 athletes of Asian descent representing the country.

Prominent multicultural athletes have the capacity to serve as role models for aspiring young CALD Australian athletes, encouraging the latter to excel in sport. Moreover, global sporting events are undoubtedly extremely popular and watched by millions of Australians, Australian youth from all backgrounds nonetheless and so it would not hurt to have diverse faces representing Australian sport.

In order to foster a local multicultural sporting environment, Australia needs to do more than just provide opportunities for young people of CALD backgrounds to participate in sport. Emotions run high during sport matches whether we are players or spectators and this is a good reason why naïve youth can get caught up playing/watching sport, exemplifying unnecessary racialised rowdy behaviour on-and-off field.

Holding sporting competitions involving players and spectators from different cultural groups within school curriculum programs could diminish discriminatory attitudes among CALD youth – Australian youth in general – within Australian sport. Classes explaining player and spectator etiquette could help too. As for increasing the representation of CALD young athletes in the public eye, it really is up to Australian media – and sport team selectors – to recognise that these athletes make valuable contributions to the local sporting sphere and in turn share their sporting achievements and stories. Ultimately, sport has the capacity to enhance a cohesive multicultural Australian society. This will inevitably hold true if we all hold utmost respect for and enthusiastically cheer on each and every athlete regardless of their race.

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Photo Credit: Sport Without Borders

Engaging Australians With Asian Languages: Tweaking the Curriculum

The presence of Asian language programs Down Under in the future looks promising and by tweaking the local Asian languages curriculum, Australians may very well be motivated to learn Asian languages and speak Asian languages outside the classroom, solidifying bilingualism in Australia.

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n today’s Asian Century, the ability to speak an Asian language is an advantage for Australians. Asia is increasingly becoming a vital economic, social and cultural partner in the Asia-Pacific region and with such a skill, communicating with neighbouring Asian countries becomes easier.

Australia already has initiatives in place to motivate locals to pick up Asian languages. Over the last few years, The Asia Education Foundation’s (AEF) BRIDGE project established partnerships with schools in China and Indonesia, putting forward opportunities for local students and teachers to engage with their peers who are native Asian language speakers. Between 2008 and 2012, the Australian Government’s National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program provided over $60 million in funding to increase the number of qualified Asian language teachers in Australian classrooms.

But this is arguably not enough. The number of Australians studying Asian languages is declining. Students enrolled in Indonesian language studies dropped 37 percent nationally from 2001 to 2010. Today, fewer high school students who do not speak Chinese at home are learning the language than four years ago.

According to the AEF, “there is no one single solution to building demand for Asian languages”. Rather, tailored and more innovative approaches could encourage Asian language study in Australia.

Providing Australian students with additional tools outside the classroom to acquaint themselves with Asian languages could be the way to go. Instead of utilizing the National Broadband Network to engage Australian classrooms with schools in Asia to support Asian language promotion, schools can offer accredited, personalised language learning e-resources. Given access to such online educational materials at home, students could potentially find it easier to grasp tricky Asian “alphabet” and writing systems at their own leisure outside limited class hours.

There are abundant opportunities for local Asian language students to travel abroad and interact with native Asian language speakers, adding an element of adventure towards studying these languages.

However, there needs to be fun, interactive Asian language curriculum in Australian classrooms to spur local students to study Asian languages. It is good to see Caufield Primary School leading the way – students perform classic stories such as The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan in Japanese alongside two hours of Japanese classes each week. This will undoubtedly assist students in gaining confidence pronouncing the complex tones of Asian languages down pat.

Also, such spontaneous language learning classes will serve to make Asian language study consistently appealing and enjoyable for those who do not get opportunities to go abroad.

Given the recent spate of racial attacks towards Asians in Australia, perhaps some Australians hold racial sentiments and prejudices towards this minority group living here. Perhaps this is why some Australians are not interested in studying Asian languages.

Asian customs starkly differ from Western ideals. Clearing up stereotypical misconceptions about Asians through education will not only encourage both Australian students and teachers to see Asian culture as part and parcel of today’s globalised era but also potentially pique their interests in studying or teaching Asian languages as well.

After all, Asian culture is strongly entwined with languages. According to Professor Zong-Qi Cai at the University of Illinois, many Chinese idioms and the beauty of Chinese language are tied with pre-modern tradition.

As part of the AEF’s BRIDGE project in 2012, Australian teachers spent time in China, interacting with language teachers here and learning first-hand about Chinese history and culture. This is definitely a start to engaging Australian teachers with Asian languages. Incorporating on-going Asian cultural activities that provide insight into Asian customs and developments in Asian countries within local language curriculum can offer intriguing cultural dimensions to Asian language study and instill self-assurance in both teachers and students to interact respectfully with their peers in Asia.

Recently in May, the Australian Government pledged $84.6 million towards enhancing students’ access to studying Asian languages. The presence of Asian language programs Down Under in the future looks promising and by tweaking the local Asian languages curriculum, Australians may very well be motivated to learn Asian languages and speak Asian languages outside the classroom, solidifying bilingualism in Australia.

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Photo Credit: Central Reference

Is K-Pop Failing to Connect With Australians?

There are speculative reasons as to why many Australians are not warming towards K-pop. Perhaps the colourful, sometimes ridiculous outfits worn by K-pop artists – looking immaculately beautiful is part of this industry – turn some away, especially those who are avid fans of music.

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he K-pop wave has been fiercely lashing Australian shores over the past few years. Today, national digital radio channel SBS PopAsia plays the latest Korean music hits all day. There is an hour of Korean music videos on free-to-air weekend television here. However, there are signs pointing to the notion that Korean music is failing to connect with the majority of Australians and this suggests any local love-affair with K-Pop will eventually dwindle.

K-pop is a rather niche market in Australia, appealing to a small demographic of the population, in particular (Asian) high schoolers who follow Korea’s entertainment scene as opposed to other (Caucasian) Australians who do not.

This is evident in light of the recent cancellations of K-pop concerts in Australia. The Melbourne leg of the 2012 KPRS Charity Concert, touted as one of the biggest K-pop fundraising concerts of the year featuring a slew of popular Korean performers, was slated to go ahead in July. It was postponed until the end of the year before being cancelled due to poor ticket sales. The fact that this concert was organsied during a time when many students – K-pop fans – are occupied with end-of-year exams arguably contributed to such dismissal ticket sales. It goes to show support for K-pop from working professionals with cash to flash, especially those who like attending music concerts, is scarce.

Local groups have shied away from supporting these K-pop concerts Down Under. Small non-profit Asian entertainment companies with limited resources such as Sydney-based Aus2One have solely bore the brunt of coordinating these events. Aus2One alone struggled to bring popular Korean bands Son Dam Bi and Brown Eyed Girls all the way from Seoul for the 2013 K-Pop Heart Concert in Sydney which has been postponed indefinitely. Nearly zilch backing from local financially profitable companies towards Korean entertainment events means considerably less publicity for K-pop here, so less Australians will pay attention to this kind of music.

Although K-pop music is played daily on SBS PopAsia and easily available to purchase online, few Korean songs have struck a chord with Australian audiences. Only Psy’s Gangnam Style has captivated the attention of a considerable number of Australians, reaching number one on local charts. Interestingly enough, there is hardly any interest in the rest of Psy’s music repertoire and Gangnam Style has not sparked Aussie curiosity towards other K-pop songs and Korean entertainers on the same scale as Psy.

There are speculative reasons as to why many Australians are not warming towards K-pop. Perhaps the colourful, sometimes ridiculous outfits worn by K-pop artists – looking immaculately beautiful is part of this industry – turn some away, especially those who are avid fans of music. Flashy fashion does not interest everyone and K-pop music videos almost always embody fashion spectacles, distracting from the message and meanings behind songs.

Moreover, many K-pop songs boast repetitive beats and funky dances and so a “teeny-bopper feel” surrounds this genre of music, often obscuring the meaningful messages that artists advocate in their craft. Looking past the bevy of scantily clad dancers in the Gangnam Style music video, it is evident Psy is sharing a story about the lavish lifestyles within the Gangnam district of Seoul. Perhaps most of the time many Australians perceive K-pop as “fluff” at face value and pay no heed to it. Or at the very least pay attention to it for a second before directing their focus to the next catchy “fad” which may not be Korean at all, for instance the Harlem Shake.

It is a shame most Australians are not wholly engaging with K-pop given that it is a reasonable avenue of fostering multiculturalism Down Under. If more K-pop events were organised and K-pop artists were depicted in the media as serious performers working hard to share their passion for music instead of money-making machines, chances are Australians will sit up. Chances are more Australians will congregate at K-pop events to enjoy K-pop and interact with their fellow Australians of different races who take a liking to this music, even making new friends and learning about new cultures.

Only time will tell whether K-pop will be more than just a fad in Australia.

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Photo Credit: kccuk

Racism In Australian Media

Journalists in Australia need to report news in a fair and objective manner since their behaviours and beliefs influence public opinion. Media inciting violence and inaccurate portrayals of certain groups encourages xenophobic behaviours and reinforces stereotypes that are already established leading to intercommunal conflict.

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Living in a multicultural society, the media plays a pivotal role in race relations and helps shape the way we view different cultures. Although we celebrate diversity, migrant communities and asylum seekers still fall victim to vicious racial vilification and discrimination in mainstream media.

Cronulla Riots and Radio 2GB

The notorious 2005 Cronulla Riots in Sydney is one of Australia’s worst ethnic tensions and this incident was an example of the media taking part in inciting violence. On December 4, two Cronulla beach life savers were attacked by a group of Lebanese men. In response, locals circulated text messages to organise a mass gathering on Cronulla Beach to reclaim their beaches and to fight for Australian pride. Around 5000 Australians, most of them of Anglo and Celtic descent, arrived. The crowd turned into a violent mob, riots occurred a week after the attacks and people of Middle-Eastern descent (or ‘Middle-Eastern’ appearance) were targeted.

Between 5-9 December, one week before the riots, Sydney Talkback Radio 2GB host Alan Jones took part in slurring people of Middle-Eastern descent. While presenting his Breakfast with Alan Jones program, many callers rang Jones to vent their revulsion towards Middle-Easterners while Jones was encouraging them.  One caller said “Get these blokes a bit of rifle butt in the face and they’ll, they’ll back off, they’re cowards!” Jones then replied; “Well if it gets to that we might have to do that, you follow what I’m saying?”

Jones also said “What kind of grubs? Well, I’ll tell you what kind of grubs this lot were. This lot were Middle-Eastern grubs. And you’re not allowed to say it but I’m saying it…” For more information on more of Jones’ comments, please click here.

In 2007, ACMA (Australian Communications Media Authority) launched an investigation into Jones’ broadcasts and produced an Investigative Report that found Jones’ comments “likely to encourage violence or brutality and to vilify people of Lebanese and Middle-Eastern backgrounds on the basis of ethnicity”. Thus the station and Jones were guilty of breaching their industry’s Code of Practice in encouraging hostility towards people of Middle-Eastern background.

Andrew Bolt’s Article on “Fair Skinned Indigenous Australians”

Andrew Bolt is a well-known columnist for the Australian newspaper The Herald Sun and he is infamous for his obnoxious commentaries. In 2009, Bolt published an article claiming that “fair skinned Indigenous Australians” exploit their Indigenous heritage for their personal, professional and financial gain. He wrote ”white Aborigines” were ”people who, out of their multi-stranded but largely European genealogy, decide to identify with the thinnest of all those strands, and the one that’s contributed least to their looks”. Before this, Bolt had published similar references such as “it’s so hip to be black” and “white fellas in the black”. Bolt, Herald Sun and Herald Sun’s publisher, Weekly Times, were sued by nine high profiled Indigenous Australians who testified they were offended and hurt by the comments. Subsequently, The Herald Sun and Bolt were accused of breaching racial vilification laws and in 2011, Bolt was found guilty of breaching Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The Footy Show

Even entertainment television programs have had breached racial vilification laws before.  In 2009, Sam Newman the host of the popular AFL (Australian Football League) television program  The Footy Show  called a Malaysian man a “monkey” and “not long out of the forest”. ACMA launched an investigation and in 2010, Channel Nine was found guilty of breaching Section 1.8.6 of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 2004 and Channel Nine was put on a $200,000 bond.  Despite this penalty, Newman remained defiant, stating that he wouldn’t change.

Asylum Seekers Coverage

Asylum seekers are also victims of unprofessional journalism. In 2010, a boat carrying asylum seekers had sunk at Christmas Island and Radio 2GB hosted a quiz for callers to guess the number of deaths.  A caller guessed 12 and the presenter Chris Smith zestfully exclaimed “12 is spot on!” and he rewarded the caller a book, movie pass and a DVD.

Earlier this year, men’s magazine Zoo issued a search for ‘Australia’s Hottest Asylum-Seeker’. The advertisement read ‘Are you a refugee not even the Immigration Minister could refuse? Then we want to see you!’ and “We’re looking for Oz’s hottest asylum seeker, so if you’ve swapped persecution for sexiness, we want to shoot you (with a camera – relax!)”. This triggered a public outcry; an online petition was started and gathered a total of 6,807 signatures calling for Zoo Magazine to apologise. As a result, Zoo Magazine published an apology.

CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) groups are often vulnerable to racist and negative portrayals in the media because many of them lack the capacity and resource to fight in legal battles against large media outlets. Limited CALD people in mainstream media, whether as journalists, editors, media personalities or board members of large media outlets also contribute to lack of representation and opportunities for CALD members to have a stronger public voice in society.

Journalists such as Andrew Bolt, who had been taken to court with a defamation case before the litigation case with the “fair-skinned Indigenous Australia” blog post, is still able to work as a journalist.  Secondly, although Sam Newman was found guilty of breaching racial vilification laws, he remains unrepentant and still continues to host The Footy Show. Their ability to continue to work in media shows that media laws and authorities in Australia need to be revised and reconsider to ensure that the rights of minority communities are protected.

It is important that we have journalists and media personalities to report and present in a fair and objective manner. If media personalities and journalists have committed severe defamation against certain communities, media authorities should command more power to revoke their journalism licenses or working in the media.  Many people look up to them as role models, and their behaviours and beliefs influence many people.  The media’s portrayal of migrant and Indigenous communities plays a key role in influencing our understanding of different cultural, linguistic and religious groups. A media which incites violence and inaccurate portrayals of certain groups encourages xenophobic behaviours and reinforces stereotypes that are already established, which will cause more rifts between different communities. One article on a newspaper or a broadcast on radio and television can make a significant difference in the image of people.

As racism happens in Australian media, there are bigger questions we need to reflect. Is racism deep-rooted in our society? Do we really accept people who come from different cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds? And based on how asylum seekers are portrayed and degraded, is there an underlying fear of newcomers?

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Photo Credit: Newton grafitti

Australia’s Multiculturalism: Integrated or Racist?

Multiculturalism in Australia has flourished over the years and brought many positive contributions to its society. But the road to achieving an appreciation of multiculturalism is still a challenge.

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According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 26 per cent of the Australian population was born overseas and 20 per cent of Australians have at least one parent born overseas (please note these statistics are based on the number of people who provided this information). We have 400 or more languages spoken at home and over 100 religions are practised by Australians (these statistics were supplied to me by the ABS).  The top ten countries of birth for the overseas born population are the United Kingdom, New Zealand, China (not including Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Italy, Vietnam, Philippines, South Africa, Malaysia and Germany.

Migration

Early migrants originated mostly from England and Ireland and other European countries such as Germany. During the Gold Rush era in the 1850s, many migrants from around the world came seeking fortunes. The Chinese were among the first non-European migrants to arrive in Australia. Some Chinese migrants settled in Australia and formed societies, becoming a new community in Australia.  In 1901, the states of Australia voted to form the Federation of Australia. At that time, Australia was surging with nationalism, the Australian government aimed to preserve an Anglo-centric society and culture and thus the Federal Parliament passed the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 or known as the “White Australia Policy”. The act sought to “place certain restrictions on immigration and… for the removal… of prohibited immigrants”.  White Australia Policy officially ended in 1976 under the Goth Whitlam Government.

A large wave of migration surged after the Second World War when Europeans from countries such as Italy, Greece, Poland, Germany, Turkey, and the Netherlands migrated to Australia to start a new life. In 1949, many Chinese fled China when the Communist government took power.

Migratory shift turned to Asia in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Many Vietnamese left Vietnam after the war, while a large wave of Cambodians escaped Pol Pot’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime. When East Timor declared independence in 1975, Indonesian troops invaded East Timor and captured the capital city Dili. This prompted many East Timorese to flee. Migration from the Balkans rose during the Yugoslav Wars and Chinese migration surged again after the Tiananmen Square Incident and post 1997 when Hong Kong was transferred back to China. Other migrants came from The Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka.

Recently, Australia has been receiving a new wave of migrants from areas such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Burma and countries from the Horn of Africa. These are our new and emerging communities, most of them escaped from war, famine and persecution.

Multiculturalism Today

Multiculturalism has made many significant changes in Australian society.  It has contributed to the local and national economy by contributing heavily to the restaurant and tourism industries, involvement in politics and government, and by sharing their culture, traditions and food with the Australian population. Many members from multicultural communities participate in community work and take leadership roles, promoting multiculturalism and facilitating cross-cultural understanding between their community and the wider community. Moreover, Australia has many community and not-for-profit organisations dedicated to supporting migrant communities.

Multiculturalism is strongly encouraged in Australia.  Each year, Canberra hosts the National Multicultural Festival. A national day called Harmony Day  celebrates Australian diversity, and an annual activity called Refugee Week  celebrates and recognises the positive impact refugees have made to Australian society. The government has developed initiatives such as the Australian Multicultural Council to encourage multicultural community members to participate in government policy consultation.

Despite these initiatives, multiculturalism is not always welcomed. A recent report completed by the University of Western Sydney surveyed 12,512 people from around Australia and revealed that almost half of them have negative views towards Muslims. This negativity was also directed at Asians (23.8%), Indigenous Australians (27.9%), Africans (27%) and Jewish people (23.3%) (results from the article can be read here,  and details of the survey through here). Racial tensions have led to instances of violence, such as the attacks on Indian international students and the infamous 2005 Cronulla Riots. Approximately 5000 Australians, mostly of Anglo and Celtic background, gathered to fight for Australian pride and “reclaim their beaches” after two Middle Eastern youths assaulted a Cronulla life guard. People with a Middle-Eastern background or appearance were also targeted.

Multiculturalism has made Australian society more vibrant, unique and has enabled us to learn and appreciate different cultures, languages, and beliefs, while becoming friends with people from different backgrounds. However, we are still a long way from achieving social harmony because there are still cultural barriers and discrimination that exist between mainstream Australian society and multicultural communities. Misunderstanding and ignorance are still prevalent in our society because we do not attempt to learn and understand different cultures in an open-minded and objective manner.

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Photo Credit: Johnny Jet

America & Japan: The Strangest Of Friends

In previous wars involving America and Japan, military clout was everything, now it is no more than a side show. Today, the war will be over oil, trade routes and national debts, and in every factor, it is China that is on the attack.

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USA and Japan

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 1940, when the US cut the supply of oil to Japan, they began a chain of events which within the year would result in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, and within five years the destruction of the majority of every Japanese city by US bombing raids leaving hundreds of thousands dead. The seizure of Japan by the US, and the partitioning of their remaining territory with Russia and China has defined the northern pacific ever since.

And yet tomorrow, Japan’s Prime Minister is making a trip to Washington D.C. to discuss the future terms of a very different relationship from the one played out between defeated enemy and victorious occupier. Though many still live with memories of the burning ships in Pearl Harbour or the flashes of nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no other pairing between two former enemies has appeared so close. After half a century of US-imposed pacifist governance, their maritime partner is now inviting Japan to join them in a very different balance of power to the one that began a century ago.

All that time ago, the US had a very limited presence in the pacific, being more interested in holding the rest of the world back from the Americas, its own personal sphere of influence. Britain’s power was beginning to fade as Germany challenged its dominance and the Boers proved a challenge they should not have been. But China, the empire which had remained a constant centre of power for millennia, had been struck down by the European powers. The vice-like-grip of the Dutch East India company began a downfall cemented by the opium wars against Britain, leaving a crippled state more than tempting to the insatiable appetite of Japan. Where European influence had broken China, it had opened the isolated isles of Japan to a world they were more than prepared to face, armed by the US they broke the Russian fleets and seized Korea and Manchuria, their influence stretching across the isles of the pacific. They ate up the Chinese coast and Indo-China, struck down only when those who had once supplied and financed their war efforts drew back in horror at the devastation they were unleashing on Asia, and visited it back upon them tenfold.

In the years after the bombs dropped in their thousands upon the cities of Japan, engulfing them in fire-storms the world had never seen, Japan recovered more swiftly than anyone could have expected. As the first of the Asian dragons they leapt upon opportunities as they came, and emerged an economic powerhouse. But with the rise of the USSR and then China, the Japanese grew ever closer to the one force which could hold the hungry expansion of communism at bay, their previous occupiers.

In what strikes as a nation-scale case of Stockholm Syndrome the Japanese stuck fast to the US throughout the new two-sided conflict with communism, taking capitalism to heart as no other country had done. After Japan regained independence in 1952 the US proved their worth as protectors in the Korean war, holding back the hordes of China and the USSR. A long relationship would continue to warm as the US declared its dedication to protecting Japan against all military threats in a treaty in 1960, and would return the islands seized in 1945 before 1972. As the USSR collapsed and the US turned its attention to the Middle East, Japan would return the favour by deploying its first set of troops since 1945 to Iraq, and developing missile systems with the US. With the fading wars in Europe, and the increased anchoring of Britain to the ever growing political clout of the supranational EU, Japan may very well be set to replace Britain as the true special partner of the US.

Just as Britain formed a special relationship with the colony responsible for the first chink in its ever-growing global empire, so Japan seems to have formed a relationship with the power which destroyed its empires and cities in the interests of protection and the prospects of a future world order. As China continues to rise just across the sea, and the death of Kim Jong-Il seems not to have hampered the isolated insanity of North Korea, Japan represents one of the few fronts in the increasing clashes between China and the 20th Century’s greatest superpower. As Japan drags itself away from the brink of economic crisis and the destruction of the tsunami, it will rise above the waters to see an ever-more aggressive and able China more than willing to flex its muscles in an international arena unrecognisable a century ago.

In this new arena the US is backing a faltering Japan in the face of an increasingly aggressive China in a mirror image of the events of 1940. Then, the conflict was open for all to see in the unstoppable march of Japan’s armies, now the change of hands is more subtle. The early 1990s financial crisis set back the progress of Japan in the same way the opium wars broke the military muscle of China, and now China is marching onwards in a war of economics and trade the indebted Japan may struggle to resist. Even as the US sets up forces in Australia, and Japan’s military begins its first significant expansion, they may be facing a very different shift in power. Expecting a declaration of increased military co-operation between Japan and the US, Guam is to rise as the new pacific military hub for the two powers and will represent a new militarism in Japan not seen in half a century.

Japan finds itself on the opposite side of a new pacific war against an expansionist power. But while previously military clout was everything, now it may be no more than a show. Today the war will be over oil, trade routes and national debts, and in every factor right now China is on the attack.