Professor Emeritus Jeffrey Riegel, Director, China Studies Centre
China is a country with a long and complicated history, rich in material culture as well as intellectual and religious traditions. Long accustomed in the past to almost unchallenged and unparalleled prominence in trade and in the arts, Chinese civilization suffered significant setbacks in the nineteenth and early twentieth century due to European colonial expansion and the civil and international warfare that ravaged China’s land and people.
But after a long period of near isolation, China has re-entered the world stage and is making an impact in the 21st century that could exceed the accomplishments of the earlier civilization. Since the start of reforms in 1978, China has already become the world’s second-largest economy and otherwise achieved the financial “clout” that accompanies such status. In literature and the visual arts, as well as other areas of innovation and creative expression, China is beginning to make a distinctive mark. In the decades to come we can fully expect the artists, authors, and inventors of China to gain international recognition for their contributions to world civilization and to improving the quality of life.
Making sense of China’s past, present, and future is one of the biggest challenges faced by Australia’s policymakers, business people, and experts. It is a tough task but it is one that cannot be ignored. What we require to be successful in meeting this challenge is the best possible knowledge and the most realistic and flexible framework in order to engage with China and fully appreciate its ambitions and influence.
In this exciting time, the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney can play a significant, indeed a crucial role, working within the context of a world-class university that has deep, wide and rich links across China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
It is a great privilege to be linked to one of the key stories of our time – the emergence of a dynamic and complex global player that is both reclaiming its former greatness while forging a new way ahead. We look forward to working with our partners in the months and years to come.