Practical vs. identity regionalism: Australia's APC initiative, a case study

Sheryn Lee, Anthony Milner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


On 4 June 2008 Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced his 'vision for an Asia Pacific community' (APC). Though failing to win support among Asian countries, the initiative offers a useful case study. This article does not focus on the motives and interests of the various governments responding to the proposal but rather on the different (and sometimes conflicting) understandings of regionalism that underpinned those responses. In its diplomatic advocacy of the APC, the Australian government stressed 'practical regionalism' - emphasizing the capacity of such a new 'community' to deal with security, economic, environmental and other challenges faced in recent times in the Asia-Pacific region. The Australian campaign gave little attention, however, to the influence of cognitive and emotive factors in community planning: it neglected 'identity' regionalism. In particular, it did not seem to take seriously the possible role of non-Western perspectives in shaping the development of post-colonial inter-state relations. Through the investigation of key Asian-language terms - relating to the English terms for 'region' and 'community' - this article seeks to demonstrate the importance of the identity dimension in both policy development and academic analysis. It argues for an analytic and diplomatic skillset that goes beyond the disciplines of international relations and economics and draws upon expertise in linguistics and regional political cultures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-228
Number of pages20
JournalContemporary Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


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