Looking Back, Moving Forward: Symposium on the future of Australia-China relations

24 October 2017
Law School Foyer

Australia China

This year, 2017, marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and The People’s Republic of China, and it is a momentous year to consider the state of this relationship that has become central to Australia. The relationship between the two nations are affected by unpredictable geopolitical changes around the world, from doubts about the integrity of the European Union, to a new brand of conservatism ruling in the US, as reflected by the election of President Trump. In the context of these global developments, will Australia need to rethink its position towards China? What is the role of the US in the region, vis-à-vis China and where does Australia position itself amongst these two powers? Global economic conditions have also altered dramatically in the last 45 years, including the 2008 global economic crisis. Such transformations allows us the opportunity to ask big questions: How will changes in Chinese economic priorities affect the Australian economy? Will Australia be able to capitalise on changes occurring within China’s economy? For Beijing and Canberra, this is an increasingly mature and mutually beneficial relationship, but also one that faces many challenges.

Such questions are at the centre of a one day symposium, co-hosted by the China Studies Centre and the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. Involving scholars and practitioners, the symposium will focus on key aspects that have shaped Australia-China relations: the political, economic, social and cultural ties between the two nations. While the symposium provides an opportunity on 45 years of engagement, it is also an apt moment to present lessons learnt to shape and improve future relations.





Registration and on arrival morning tea


Welcome by Professor Luigi Tomba


Panel 1 Economic Relations


Lunch break


Panel 2 International Relations & Security


Afternoon Tea


Panel 3 Cultural Engagement


Sydney Ideas keynote lecture

Register for the symposium :Here

Register for the keynote lecture: Here

Panel 1: Economic Relations

China today faces daunting economic challenges. To many economists, only dramatic structural transformation offers hope for escaping a looming middle-income trap. Demands are mounting for Xi Jinping to take dramatic steps reining in the bloated state sector, replace investment-led growth with domestic consumption, and tackle industrial over-capacity. The future of China, many argue, lies in the balance of its economy. The ‘bear-bull’ debate over China’s economic future has profound implications for Australia, given its extreme dependence upon Chinese prosperity. Chinese consumers, investors, students, and tourists play central roles across Australia’s economy today. What about tomorrow? What should our China policy look like going forward? How risky is economic dependence upon China? Where are Australia’s growth opportunities in China? Should we be looking to broaden our economic partners or double-down on our China bet? This panel brings together leading economists to shed light upon Australia’s current and future economic relationship with China.

James Reilly (Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney)

Hans Hendrischke (University of Sydney Business School)
Peter Drysdale (Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU) Peter Cai (Lowy Institute)
Peter Cai (Lowy Institute)

Panel 2: Security and International Relations

When Canberra and Beijing established diplomatic relations in 1972, China remained largely isolated, economically backward, and faced imminent threats from the Soviet Union Today, China has become the second largest economy in the world with growing military power and diplomatic influence affecting regional peace and prosperity. Australia-China relations have also evolved, underpinned by strong and mutually beneficial economic ties in trade and investment, and growing people-to-people contacts from tourism and higher education. However, there remain significant challenges in bilateral relations. Australia remains committed to its alliance with the United States, advocates rule-based order and multilateral, diplomatic solutions to disputes in the region, and promotes universal values such as the respect for human rights. On the other hand, Beijing's increasingly assertive foreign policy, in particular its firm positons on territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas, and its challenge to US primacy in the region, poses a serious dilemma for Australia as it seeks to maintain a delicate balance between the two great powers which, in turn, will affect the direction of Australia-China bilateral relations in the coming years.

Jingdong Yuan (Department of Government and International Relations, University of Sydney)

Linda Jakobson (China Matters)
Han Feng (Australian Studies Centre, China Academy of Social Sciences)
Wang Yi (Griffith University)

Panel 3: Cultural Engagement

Forty-five years of economic and political engagement between the two nations have increased the circulation of people and ideas, exposing both to each other’s rich and culturally diverse environments. No other number allows us to understand this dimension of the relationship better than the number of Chinese students in Australia, which in 2016 surpassed 46,000 in one year, more than 25 per cent more than 2015. Aside from the economic contribution to Australia’s education sector, this phenomenon is important in ways that are sometimes difficult to fathom and need to be explored beyond their direct meaning. The visibility of, and interest in Chinese culture in Australia and vice versa are also demonstrated by important initiatives, from Chinese New Year celebrations across Australia to the Australian Writers’ Week in China; from the establishment of the White Rabbit Contemporary Chinese Art Collection to Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at National Gallery of Victoria and the Celestial Empire exhibition at the National Library. Education, culture and art have become terrains of engagement for Australia and China that add important dimensions to their relationship. Are education, cultural and artistic exchanges creating new avenues of understanding and facilitating new dialogues or are they creating other more complex issues for our two societies? Does a better understanding of each other facilitate Australians own understanding of multiculturalism? Will education, culture and art strengthen or complicate the relationship between Australia and China?

Jocelyn Chey(Australia China Institute for Arts and Culture,Western Sydney University)

Nicholas Jose (English and Creative Writing, University of Adelaide)
Sophie Loy-Wilson (History, University of Sydney)
Luise Guest (White Rabbit Contemporary Chinese Art Collection) 

Keynote Lecture-Australia and China:Before and Below the Nation

keynote lecture

December 2017 marks 45 years since Australia and the People's Republic of China established formal diplomatic relations. In celebrating such anniversaries, it is common for politicians and diplomats to note how the Australia–China relationship has developed over the intervening years – citing trade and investment figures, and tourism dollars, and the growing numbers of Chinese students at Australian universities.

But what of Australia–China relations before 1972? Before 1922? Before 1872?

In this lecture Dr Kate Bagnall considers a different history of Australia–China relations. With the first known Chinese settler in New South Wales arriving almost 200 years ago, what do we know about the men and women whose lives crossed between China and Australia, and Australia and China, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries?

What do we know of the connections of people and place forged before and below the nation-to-nation ties of the late twentieth century? And how might a focus on the personal and intimate in the past contribute to better understanding in the future?

About the speaker:

Dr Kate Bagnall is an ARC DECRA Research Fellow in the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry at the University of Wollongong, where she is working on a comparative study of Chinese colonial citizenship in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

She has published on various aspects of Chinese Australian history and is co-editor, with Sophie Couchman, of Chinese Australians: Politics, Engagement and Resistance (2015). Much of her research explores the lives of the women, children and families of Australia’s early Chinese communities and the transnational connections and qiaoxiang ties of Chinese Australians before 1940. She is @baibi on Twitter and you can find her research blog at www.chineseaustralia.org.

Event detail:
Tuesday 24 October
Venue: Law School Foyer, Level 2, Sydney Law School, Eastern Avenue, the University of Sydney
Cost: Free and open to all, with online registration required