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The Impact of the Vietnam War on Australias Relations with Asia.

The Vietnam War impacted Australias fundamental perception of the Asian region. During the 1950s and 1960s, Australias relations with Asia were heavily diminished due to influence from the Cold War and the fear of communism. Australia viewed communism as a threat in this era of political instability and resisted communist expansion in Asia, including Korea and Vietnam. The end of the war instigated the beginning of a significant development in Australias relations with Asia. As opposed to identifying themselves as Europeans, Australian governments from 1972 recognised that Australia was a vital part of the Asian region, that there were enormous trade opportunities and that the links to Britain were declining. Australias links with Britain (as well as America) have declined since the Vietnam War. Since Federation, Australia had perceived itself as an essentially European country, a view asserted by the White Australia Policy. At the end of the Vietnam War, with the new Labor government under Gough Whitlam, Australian foreign and domestic policy changed dramatically. A fortnight after being elected on 2 December 1972, Whitlam officially recognised the communist government of the People's Republic of China and opened up diplomatic relations. Australia soon reopened its embassy in Beijing which had been closed in protest in 1949 when the communist government assumed power, and established diplomatic relations with North Vietnam. Whitlam was determined that in the future, Australian foreign policy would be Australian and not dependent on Britain or America. For years, the racially-charged mistrust of Australia had prevented interaction in its own region. Whitlam wanted to change that. He also wanted to divorce Australian foreign policy from Australian defence policy. The 'forward defence' policy of the Menzies government was discarded as ineffective and backward-looking. The abandonment of the White Australia Policy allowed the arrival of millions of Asian refugees. As America withdrew from Vietnam, and as Britain moved towards the European Economic Community (EEC - later the European Union), Australia began to realise the importance of developing regional links. Prior to the war, Australia saw itself as a Western nation on the rim of Asia. The abolishment of the White Australia policy, however, changed this. Australia began welcoming Asian people as Australian citizens, particularly Indochinese refugees escaping the new communist regimes. The fact that so many Asians resettled in Australia after the war prompted Australia to cooperate with Asia more than ever. The government sent aid to help with reconstruction. The Vietnamese Family Migration Program was set up by the Australian and Vietnamese governments to help reunite families that had been separated in the chaos of the aftermath of the war. Up until 1975, there were fewer than 2000 Vietnam-born residents in Australia. Today, 200 000 Australian residents are of Vietnamese ancestry, part of 2.4 million Australians of Asian ancestral background. Australias multiculturalism has allowed the integration of Australian culture and Asian culture, strengthening Australian relations with Asia. Australia has growing economic and trade links with Asia today. For many years, Britain was Australias major trading partner. In 1906, it accounted for 59% of imports and 49% of exports. By the 1960s, Japan had overtaken Britain as Australias main export market, with 25% of exports going to Japan and 11.8% to Britain. In 2006, the UK accounted for only 4% of both imports and exports. China and Japan are now Australias two largest trading partners, followed by the US and Korea. This is supported by Australias trade agreements, most significantly, the two regional agreements of the

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), linking Australia firmly with modern Asia. The Vietnam War has resulted in new, improved relations with Asian countries. Due to the fear of communism residing, Australia can now look forward to an era of cooperation with Asian nations. Eisenhowers Domino Theory of the 1950s and 1960s proved to be incorrect, as monolithic communism never reached Australia. The driving force between many of the conflicts in Asia during the Cold War era was driven by nationalism not communism. When China and Vietnam were brought under communist control, there was no aggressive communist push towards Australia. Instead, after the Vietnam War, Australia began to forge new relationships with these nations, creating a partnership based on equality and trust, not the previous rampant fear of Asia and the spread of the communism. Since the establishment of APEC in 1989, Australia has firmly inaugurated itself into the Asia-Pacific region. As well as economic involvement in Asia, Australia now contributes to the maintenance of peace and security through ASEAN in cooperation with Asian countries. Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, Australia and Asia have been working to increase counter-terrorism initiatives and to improve security in South East Asia. The end of the Vietnam War in 1972 completely changed Australias way of thinking regarding Asia. The White Australia policy, which had discriminated against Asians since Federation, was abolished, and numerous refugees and migrants were accepted. Whereas once it was Britain that Australia based all its policies and systems on, Australia now has realised the importance of developing its own system and initiating relations with Asian nations. With the benefit of hindsight, one may question the justification of the war. However, without experiencing the political and social forces in the Cold War era, one cannot truly understand the fear of communism at the time, and thus, cannot judge Australians justifications of the war. It is clear though that the war has changed Australias world perspective. It has brought Australians out of an Anglo-centric way of life to the realisation they have an important role to fill in the Asia-Pacific region.