The Federal Government's new Asia policy argues that in order to thrive in the Asian century, Australia needs a clear plan to seize the economic opportunities that will flow and to manage the strategic challenges that will arise. Foreword Asia’s rise is changing the world. This is a defining feature of the 21st century—the Asian century. These developments have profound implications for people everywhere. Asia’s extraordinary ascent has already changed the Australian economy, society and strategic environment. The scale and pace of the change still to come mean Australia is entering a truly transformative period in our history. Within only a few years, Asia will not only be the world’s largest producer of goods and services, it will also be the world’s largest consumer of them. It is already the most populous region in the world. In the future, it will also be home to the majority of the world’s middle class. The Asian century is an Australian opportunity. As the global centre of gravity shifts to our region, the tyranny of distance is being replaced by the prospects of proximity. Australia is located in the right place at the right time—in the Asian region in the Asian century. For several decades, Australian businesses, exporters and the community have grown their footprint across the region. Today, for Australia, the minerals and energy boom is the most visible, but not the only, aspect of Asia’s rise. As the century unfolds, the growth in our region will impact on almost all of our economy and society. An increasingly wealthy and mobile middle class is emerging in the region, creating new opportunities. They are demanding a diverse range of goods and services, from health and aged care to education to household goods, and tourism, banking and financial services, as well as high-quality food products. Beyond economic gains, there are many valuable opportunities for building stronger relationships across the region, including through closer educational, cultural and people-to-people links. Our nation also has the strength that comes from a long history of engagement with countries in Asia. Australia’s relationships in our region are strong and robust, including with Asian nations like China, Japan, India, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). But in this Asian century we must enter a new phase of deeper and broader engagement.