Message from Director

Kerry Brown

It has been almost a year since I arrived to direct the Centre. Time has passed pretty quickly. Over the last few months I have been able to get a sense of what is happening on China across the University community, within the state and across the country. Over the same period, I’ve been able to get to events on China in Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne and Hobart – as well as attending events in China at the Boao Forum in April with the Australian education delegation, and in Europe, North and South America, and of course elsewhere in Asia. Since I arrived here, the Australian government has issued two key strategic documents – white papers on `Australia in the Asian Century’ and `Defence’. In both, China figured prominently. I have also been able to see how the University as a whole is repositioning itself to engage with China more deeply. There seem to be official delegations and activities every week.

The Centre has been given a central role in all of this. The support we have received from the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Deans and the Heads of School has been remarkable. But it is also heartening to see the amount of engagement throughout the whole organisation, from academic to student interest, and in almost every subject area. China’s dynamism, its internal contradictions and the ways in which people in Australia across business, education, government and society generally are trying to make sense of what this historic change means to them and the world around them, is extraordinary. It is wonderful to be able to be part of all of this.

The Centre primarily exists to promote research and academic engagements, and we fund directly people who are producing world class work on ancient China, Chinese public health, social change and legal transformation. Members of the Centre produced over 200 publications last year. Parallel to this, we are dedicating more effort to media work. Media interest in China has intensified, and the work of Centre members in speaking about and informing the public either in printed, spoken or filmed media is critical. Our relaunched website will carry much more media information, including a new regular blog, along with links to the work members are doing in this area. Promoting the Centre, and its concentration of diverse excellence, throughout the rest of the world is critical. The media lies at the heart of raising our profile and showing we are at the centre of the debate about what China is becoming and what our role in that story should be.

Business and government are now working with partners in China nationally and provincially in ways which are deeper and more complex than ever before. The White Paper on ‘Australia in the Asian Century’ talked of creating an `Asia savvy’ generation of policymakers. Policy work is also hugely important for our work. We have people in the University who have thought about aspects of China in great depth, in some cases for many years. Their knowledge is hugely valuable to policy makers. The speed and scale of China’s development creates challenges for policy makers where they often need outside help. We have worked with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Canberra, and are working with the State Government of New South Wales, in producing roundtables, expert commentary and advice. We are also focussing on major events which help to educate and generate informed interest in engagement with China, like the Sydney China Business Forum which will be held in October 2013, and through briefings and events that showcase research we are doing for business and policy making audiences. We have also started to produce a policy paper series which will be developed in the coming months. The Centre, through running the Europe China Research and Advice Network (ECRAN), is also at the heart of policy advice in the European Union.

The final key area is youth involvement. In August, the Centre will hold an event in partnership with the University of Sydney Student’s Union, in which members will debate what China’s rise means for the country and the region. We will also be holding events in partnership with the Australia-China Youth Association (ACYA), including involvement in their publications and in some of their events. We are keen to help spread interest about China, and to mobilise a new generation to becoming interested in China. A Junior Policy Associates scheme has been established, which allows younger people to work on projects through the Centre.

Finally, the Centre exists to create a sense of community and of support across the University for those, no matter what their discipline areas or their specific interest, who wish to work more on China and to know about the work of others in this area. We welcome ideas and proposals. Many thanks to those who are already involved in what we do. And to those who aren’t yet – we look forward to seeing you soon.