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Professor McKay is one of Australia's leading authorities on the economic, political and strategic situation in Asia, and is a Founding Partner in Analysis International, a research institute and think tank in Melbourne, as well as an Honorary Professor at Deakin University. After 12 years as Founding Director of the Monash Asia Institute, which he left at the end of 2003, he has an intimate knowledge of the entire region, and a particular strength in the interpretation of the broad changes taking place right across Asia. He has a special interest in the economic restructuring of Asia, the emerging security situation, and economic and political cooperation in the region. He was Founding Director of the Australian APEC Study Centre in 1995, and has been part of the APEC Expert Panel evaluating the progress made by each APEC member in meeting the various APEC goals. He has recently undertaken a number of detailed studies of restructuring in Korea, Taiwan and Japan. He has also played a leading role in a series of “second track diplomacy” initiatives relating to the Korean Peninsula, the nuclear situation in South Asia, and the issue of Taiwan-China relations. He is now also involved in a series of studies on food security in various parts of Asia and was one of the authors of a new paper published in the journal Food Security on rethinking food policies in Asia, linking concepts of food security with important issues of food quality and nutrition and food safety. He is a regular media commentator on all of these issues.
He also has considerable experience in Africa. He held a Goldsmiths Company research scholarship for work in Sierra Leone. He also worked for four years in the Bureau of Resource Assessment and Land Use Planning at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, where he undertook a wide range of applied research projects for the government of Tanzania and a number of international agencies. More recently, he has written a number of papers on what Africa might learn from the successful development experiences in various parts of Asia, and on the implications for Africa of the rise of China. He has just completed an analysis of how Africa might derive more benefits from its immense resources of minerals and energy, and has recently received funding from AusAid to begin a more detailed analysis of how Zambia should develop better policies for its resources sector.
He is one of the authors of the bestselling textbook on development, International Development: Issues and Challenges published in 2012 in a new and completely revised third edition in New York and London by Palgrave Macmillan. From 1992 to 1999 was Joint Editor of the Asian Studies Review. He served as President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, and has been a member of the Executive of the Korean Studies Association of Australasia. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Global Economic Review and has also served in that capacity for the Australian Journal of International Affairs. He holds visiting research appointments at the South African Institute of International Affairs and the Brenthurst Foundation in Johannesburg.