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Australian Diplomatic Practice: Methods and Theory

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This essay examines aspects of the theory and method behind Australian diplomacy, paying particular attention to the way it has affected relations with Asia. It argues that although Australia took a long period of time to develop an independent posture in international affairs, a distinctive tradition of diplomacy began to emerge much earlier. This evolved within the context of the imperial system and was partly a response to perceived deficiencies in arrangements for dominion representation. Founded on a determinedly Eurocentric outlook towards world affairs and lacking any strong theoretical underpinning, Australia's diplomatic methods, as with its foreign policy in general, have not always been conducive to the development of the closer relations with Asian governments which most postwar Australian governments have desired. Australia's diplomatic performance in Asian has thus been uneven. Australia now devotes more of its modest diplomatic resources to the conduct of its foreign policy in Asian countries than to the maintenance of relations with countries in any other region. While this has enabled Canberra to improve its diplomatic performance in Asia, the economic, political and cultural differences that divide Australia from its neighbours, continue to confront Australian governments with a difficult challenge in the pursuit of their regional diplomatic objectives.

Affiliations: 1: Division of Asian and International Studies, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia


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