The Dragon's will: a new understanding of Chinese influence

By Kate Mayor

In a world where all eyes are focused on China, expertise like Associate Professor Jingdong Yuan’s is highly sought after
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Jingdong Yuan

“The University has just launched the China Studies Centre, which is very attractive because the University does have a critical mass of China Studies scholars - over 130 members - affiliated with the Centre." Associate Professor Jingdong Yuan (Photo: Kate Mayor)

A specialist in Asia-Pacific security, Chinese defence and foreign policy, and global and regional arms control and nonproliferation issues, Associate Professor Yuan is a welcome addition to the University of Sydney’s growing International Security and Chinese Studies programs.

As well as providing commentary on these newsworthy topics to a wide variety of journals and media outlets including Asian Survey, Far Eastern Economic Review, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Nonproliferation Review, Associate Professor Yuan has also co-authored a book titled China and India: Cooperation or Conflict?

It is Jingdong’s study of the emerging security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, the rise of China and its relationship to other major powers of the world - such as the United States, Japan and India - which has made the University of Sydney such an appealing place for him to work, and a major factor in his decision to join the Centre for International Security Studies last year.

“The University has just launched the China Studies Centre, which is very attractive because the University does have a critical mass of China Studies scholars – over 120 members - affiliated with the Centre. I’m very excited because the centre is at the beginning phase so it is getting into place many different committees and work plans for the next five years. It will really be a very good platform to attract people who want to work on China-related issues,” says Associate Professor Yuan, who sees great prospects in CISS-CSC collaboration in the coming years.

He continues, “Plus there is the United States Studies Centre, so basically you have these two academic research centers focusing on the world’s two biggest powers at the University. As a result, the University of Sydney is uniquely positioned to engage in cross-disciplinary, cross-faculty collaboration in research, which makes it a very good place to be.”

One of the areas of particular fascination to Associate Professor Yuan is the nature and limitation of Chinese power – just because China has so much growing power, it doesn’t necessarily mean this power will be asserted over others.

He says “because of the rise of China there has been a lot of speculation that China will try to exercise power and influence – in places such as Africa and Latin America. I think, however, that there are a lot of limitations, as asserting this power can be at the cost of your other competing interests, so it is not a simple question of having power and therefore tramping force onto others.”

These questions of limitation are being asked by Associate Professor Yuan in his forthcoming book The Dragon’s Will, and being positioned in Australia is helping his research in this field in a variety of ways.

“I think Australian universities in the last few years have become more and more interested in the Asia Pacific and particularly in China because of the resource-based economic ties between Australia and China. Australia is very close to Asia, so I knew that the University of Sydney would be the ideal place for this next chapter in my academic career.”

First published in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences research brochure.