‘Australia in the Asian Century’ was a White Paper put out by the Gillard government in 2012. The goal was to highlight the changes happening in our region, and attempt to map out a path for Australia to continue to prosper as the locus of power shifts again towards the East.
For a designer in Australia, with the cultural capital borne of middle class parents and an education system that (relatively) promotes innovation & creativity, these changes present a huge opportunity. To succeed, a designer who wants to practice in Asia needs to be adaptable, comfortable with complexity, collaborative, open-minded and most of all, empathetic to the needs and desires of others.
China and India are projected to soon home the bulk of the world’s middle class. Opportunities are often touted in catering to this ‘upwardly mobile’ segment – however I think there are greater opportunities for product and systems design, (or at least more valuable ones), in engaging with the larger underclass. We have the opportunity to chart a path to a much more rational, capable world that includes all members of our species, and respects the ecosystem services that sustain us and the other forms of life that share this space rock with us.
Most of all, any intervention into Asia needs to be a reflexive relationship; one that involves changes in both directions. We in the West need to be accepting of at least as much change in mindsets and ways of living back from the East to the West as we hope to improve the lives of those in Asia.
Done right, we can teach each other how to live in harmony. Done wrong, and another round of cultural colonialism will leave us farther apart than ever.