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Language as “soft power” in bilateral relations: The case of Indonesian language in Australia

Hill, D.T. (2016) Language as “soft power” in bilateral relations: The case of Indonesian language in Australia. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 36 (3). pp. 364-378.

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Since Joseph Nye introduced the concept of “Soft power” in his 1991 book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power, analysts have discussed states' efforts to exercise their influence by attracting and co-opting rather than coercing or using force. This paper will examine enrolments trends in Indonesian language in Australian universities, in the context of Indonesia's public diplomacy and Australian government educational policy. Enrolment data and trend analysis updates the 2012 National Report on Indonesian in Australian Universities: Strategies for a stronger future. Then, using statistics provided by a recent Newspoll commissioned by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the article explores Australian attitudes to Indonesia in the context of Indonesia's limited linguistic “soft power”. It concludes that the fluctuations in Indonesian language learning in Australia and Australian attitudes to Indonesia generally appear more influenced by Australian government policy than any conscious efforts by Indonesia to exercise “soft power”. It concludes that it is to the advantage of both countries that Indonesian language learning be better promoted and supported.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Publisher: Routledge
Copyright: National Institute of Education, Singapore
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