Postcard from Beijing

24 October 2013

Beijing's building boom: an expression of China's ambition and confidence
Beijing's building boom: an expression of China's ambition and confidence

The Chinese are dreaming big and building big. In Beijing, monumental infrastructure developments give public expression to China's national pride, its ambition and its confidence in the future. The country has an insatiable appetite for building on a grand scale. There is a natural progression from the Great Wall of China to these latest new-build projects towering towards the sky.

At street level, I am always amazed by the city's diversity. So many different faces and such eclecticism in the way people dress and adapt fashions and styles. The importance of family is inescapable. When I open my wallet to pay for a cup of coffee, the sales assistant sees a picture of my son and starts asking me about him. This interest in other people, in their lives and families, is very common; the new China is an unashamedly curious place.

The importance of family was highlighted again yesterday at the University of Sydney's Beijing events, when 230 graduates celebrated their achievements with their families. Hundreds of proud parents and friends attended the graduate recognition ceremony and subsequent celebrations.

The Deputy Chancellor, Alan Cameron, and the main speaker, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Professor Shane Houston, both emphasised the importance of family and friends in supporting us to achieve our goals in life, encouraging us, and fostering our resilience.

Today attention shifted to the way that Australia and China can work together to realise the China Dream, the subject of a University of Sydney symposium with our Chinese partners.

Xi Jinping's campaign to promote the China Dream has been a major talking point since his appointment as Party Secretary and President. Professor Duncan Ivison, Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, said it had stirred a desire among Chinese to serve their country and carry development to all provinces, while living prosperous, secure, and just lives.

Professor Bates Gill, Chief Executive of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, spoke of the success of the China-US relationship and the importance of realising their mutual dreams. Professor Kathryn Refshauge, Dean of Health Sciences, warned about some of the negative impacts of affluence and urbanism including the high incidence of chronic diseases and the obesity, issues that the new Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney will address.

Deputy Chancellor Alan Cameron at the University's graduate recognition ceremony in Beijing
Deputy Chancellor Alan Cameron at the University's graduate recognition ceremony in Beijing

Professor Archie Johnston, Dean of Engineering and IT, spoke of leadership and educating graduates to be leaders. Professor Fran Waugh, Acting Dean of Education and Social Work, and Professor David Grant, Co-Dean of the University's Business School, presented their views on education and economic development. Professor Rosanne Taylor, Dean of Veterinary Science, encouraged bright young minds to dream and make new discoveries, while Professor Kerry Brown, Executive Director of the China Studies Centre, urged Chinese travellers to head south and experience the essence of the Australian dream.

Our Chinese partners- from government, agencies, and the universities of Peking and Tsinghua- gave their perspective on China's social and economic development, infrastructure challenges, and the philosophical basis of the China Dream. Their contributions and analysis were invaluable in shedding light on the issues that will dominate our region in this, the Asian Century.

Beijing has been transformed in the last twenty years. The traffic is chaotic and Beijing drivers are amongst the most impatient people I have ever encountered. But like China as a whole, it is a fascinating city, constantly evolving and with so much to discover.

Sandra Meiras is the Director, International, in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal.

Contact: Richard North

Phone: 02 9351 3191

Email: 14594c2733203c5a2f023446070f174f2a3723297b2033014f0f3f