Narendra Modi, Xi Xinping and Shinzo Abe show Australia how to reform

Three dynamic leaders in Asia are transforming, not tweaking, their countries' economies.

As Joe Hockey's latest budget illustrates, it's a lot easier for politicians to talk about economic reform than it is to actually implement it.

And when they do talk, it's in terms of tweaking the existing fiscal arrangements with the perfect reform being one that leaves nobody worse off.

However, in the taxonomy of politicians, we occasionally see a rare variety thrown up, one you might have thought to be extinct.

This is not the tweaking reformer, but the transformative reformer. While it is difficult to identify any individual in the Australian Parliament who might warrant that description, we have the most unusual situation internationally with no fewer than three political leaders demonstrating the necessary credentials.

They are China's President Xi Jinping, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Each has proved capable of exercising the activist leadership required to address the legacy of mismanagement left by their predecessors.

Since taking office, Narendra Modi has sought to transform India's relationship with China.

However, as Brahma Chellaney, professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, points out, "China and India have a fraught relationship, characterised by festering disputes, deep mistrust, and a shared ambivalence about political co-operation."

The friction between the two countries can be illustrated by myriad examples, but the simple fact that China is the only major power that has not backed India's bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council says it all.

Under Xi Jinping's leadership, China has been increasing its geopolitical and ecopolitical reach with the inference that he wants China to be seen and accepted as the dominant Asian power.

His ambitious One Road One Belt (OBOR) initiative to build a new Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road, has effectively become the centrepiece of his foreign policy and international economic strategy.

Details released in Chinese media show the belt to be a planned network of overland road and rail routes, oil and natural gas pipelines and other infrastructure projects that will stretch from Xi'an in central China, through Central Asia and ultimately reach as far as Moscow, Rotterdam and Venice.

Under Barack Obama, the United States has taken a pivot towards Asia. Under Xi Jinping, China is taking a pivot towards Europe.

Imagine what the Indians think of that. They are already alarmed at increased Chinese investment in Sri Lanka, which they regard as part of their backyard.

The program will also promote financial integration and use of the renminbi by foreign countries and create an Information Silk Road that links regional information and communications technology networks.

According to George Magnus, formerly a chief economist for UBS, who critiqued OBOR on his website, the plan will inevitably require China to project its growing naval power further afield.

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Max Walsh


Max Walsh was for many years one of Australia’s top economic and political commentators, highly regarded as a journalist, author and broadcaster. Throughout his career, Max was involved in all dimensions of the media industry, which has encompassed positions with two of Australia’s largest publishing companies and television networks.

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