Feature stories



The story of Haibao

By Richard North

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You can’t go far in Shanghai without running into Haibao.

Haibao is the symbol of the World Expo, a sky blue cartoon character with giant eyes and outstretched hands who appears on a thousand pieces of Expo merchandise and as a life-size figure in shopping malls and open spaces.

Haibao

The mascot is the creation of a young Shanghai designer, Fang Fang, who became involved in the project after spending 18 months in Sydney completing a master’s degree in studio art at Sydney College of the Arts.

She began work in 2007, using a concept supplied by one of the winners of an international competition to design a mascot for the Expo. The project took more than two years to complete, and involved designing hundreds of extended Haibao designs including 130 figures dressed in various national clothes and costumes, and more than 100 animated figures.

Haibao’s shape is based on the Chinese character ‘ren’ meaning people, although the name translates into English as ‘ocean treasure’. And the mascot’s sky blue colour, says Fang Fang, was directly inspired by her time in Australia.

“When I close my eyes the blue ocean and the sky of Australia always appear to me,” she says. “So when the time came to decide the colour of Haibao, I had no doubt that it should be sky blue. And the open character and sunny smile on Haibao’s face are inspired by the spirit of Shanghai and Sydney, two of my favourite cities.”

Fang Fang was brought up in Shanghai and after graduating from university in Shanghai moved to Sydney as a 24-year-old in 2004 – inspired, she says, by an article in a English language magazine saying that Australian people are always ready to share a smile. “I can’t imagine anything better,” she says.

Moving to Australia was a novel experience for Fang Fang. It was her first time in a plane, and the first time she had opened her own bank account.

In Sydney she lived with a homestay family at Newtown, studied at the SCA, and took every opportunity to travel round Australia, staying at backpackers’ hostels and keeping a diary of her experiences.

Fang Fang

After returning home she has taught art design at a Shanghai art college and has designed mascots for a number of major Chinese events – the Farmers’ Sports Games, the National Sports Games and the Shanghai China International Arts Festival.

She has also just published a book on mascot design, the first of its kind in China.

Fang Fang hopes to return to Australia, and revisit Sydney. “The time when I was living, studying and travelling in Australia was a golden period in my life which left countless nice memories,” she says.

“What I saw and learned in Australia extended my horizons and pushed forward my career. If it’s possible I’d like to introduce the culture and customs of Australia to more Chinese and people of other countries by my paintings, illustrations and cartoons.

“In that way I can express my appreciation to the people who were so kind and considerate to me when I was in Australia.”


Talented Leadership

By Thomas Wong

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The development of business talent in Australia and China was one of the key themes of the Shanghai World Expo Symposium organised by the Faculty of Economics and Business, writes Thomas Wong.

Industry experts joined academics from Australia and China at the Australian Pavilion to discuss innovative ideas in the management of human capital and management education which will help companies to cultivate business leaders and retain talented staff.

The buoyant economy in Australia and tremendous economic growth in China have created new challenges for companies to manage their human capital. Associate Professor Richard Hall predicted: “The next war for talent will not be won by those with the best recruitment, selection and reward practices, it will be won by those that best manage talent for innovation and performance by creating the right work environment, motivating environment, management environment and technology environment.”

He warned that in a recent survey of management practices, Australian companies performed worst on instilling a talent mindset, retaining high performers, rewarding top performance and the management of human capital.

Professor Zhao Shuming, Dean of the School of Business at Nanjing University, pointed out: “Talent is obtained by development, not by management.”

He said the 2009 China Training Investigation and Research Report found that about 87 per cent of Chinese firms formulated annual training plans compared to only 69 per cent in 2004.

Ian Lee, CEO of Whirlpool China, also spoke about the importance of developing talent. He laid down a challenge to companies, saying: “We need to develop talent with every effort. The company needs to take ownership of supplying talent for the organisation and of ensuring that employees know exactly what their next career steps are. The company also needs to conduct talent reviews cross-functionally to create more development opportunities for employees with high potential.”

The symposium on Reform for Innovation and Enterprise attracted more than 90 participants including business executives, professionals, academics and alumni. The event was supported by 13 major Australian and international companies and organizations: ANZ; AustCham Shanghai; Citi; Commonwealth Bank of Australia; CPA Australia; Deloitte; Ernst and Young; KPMG; Macquarie Group; Mallesons Stephen Jaques; PricewaterhouseCoopers; Westpac; and Whirlpool China.

This symposium aimed to promote an active exchange of ideas between academics and practitioners for the creation of new ideas and the advancement of knowledge.

Professor Peter Wolnizer, Dean of Economics and Business, described the symposium as “a truly outstanding program of collaboration between Australia and China, University and industry, as well as between academics and business leaders.

The symposium offered insightful and thought-provoking presentations to an audience made up of corporate friends, academics and our own alumni. The event was extremely popular and all the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”

To support the development of business leaders, Professor Chris Styles outlined a program of reforms for management education. He argued: “Business schools prepare people technically, but it is not sufficient. Real innovations for business schools these days do away with traditional core subjects replacing them with truly integrative cores, and also having leadership development experiences throughout the programs.”

Professor Lu Xiongwen, Dean of the School of Management at Fudan University, listed three elements that are crucial for tomorrow’s business leaders: “Ethics and social responsibility, international perspective, and entrepreneurship.”

He placed a strong emphasis on ethics and social responsibility as the backbone for a sustainable society.

While agreeing with the view of two academic speakers, Mr John Hung from Deloitte, speaking as a practitioner and employer, added that “cultural understanding, communication and people skills are essential for the success of tomorrow’s business leaders.”

Reponses to the symposium from participants were overwhelmingly positive.

“I was very impressed with the quality of the presentations and speakers; I personally got a lot out of the morning as did my colleague who joined me,” said Andrew Whitford, the China head of Westpac.
Stephen Lee, a partner at Ernst and Young, said it was a “very informative and thought-provoking symposium. I enjoyed and benefited from it a lot.”

(L-R) Prof Peter Wolnizer, Mr Peter Egan, Prof Tyrone Carlin and Prof Chris Styles

Pictured above (L-R) from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Economics and Business: Professor Peter Wolnizer, Dean of the Faculty; Adjunct Professor John Egan, Chair of the Corporate Advisory Board; Professor Tyrone Carlin, Associate Dean (Undergraduate) and Professor of Financial Reporting and Regulation; and Professor Chris Styles, Associate Dean (Executive Education) and Professor of Marketing.

Author Thomas Wong was one of the organisers of the University’s business symposium at the Shanghai Expo.


Clearing the Air in China

By Kristi Maroc

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Plans to introduce plain packaging on cigarette packs in Australia, announced recently by the Federal government, are another decisive step in a long campaign to cut the number of Aussie smokers. The strategy has been tough, and it has been successful.

Professor Simon Chapman


In Australia smoking is now commonly looked upon as a social indignity. No longer does it carry the glamour and charm associated with smoking by previous generations. But the present social stigma is the result of decades of research and campaigning to ‘denormalise’ smoking. From no-smoking areas, price increases and cigarette advertising bans, to disturbing advertisements graphically demonstrating the physical results of smoking, Australia has demonstrated a no-nonsense approach to encouraging people to avoid smoking.

One man who has had played a pivotal role in the evolution of this strategy is Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health. A devoted anti-smoking advocate for more than 30 years, Professor Chapman has long campaigned for an end to tobacco advertising, and he has sifted through millions of cigarette company documents for evidence that the companies knew about the health risks but covered them up. His main research interests now are in tobacco control, studying media discourses on health and illness, and risk communication. He has become a high-profile spokesman for tobacco control policies around the world.

Professor Chapman’s successes include awards from the World Health Organisation, the American Cancer Society, the British Medical Association and the Public Health Association of Australia and New Zealand, as well as the NSW Premier’s Award for Outstanding Cancer Research. He was also a finalist in the 2009 Australian of the Year award. But most importantly, his biggest success is the role he has played in contributing to the fall in the number of Australian smokers.

"Smoking rates in Australia have never been lower in both adults and in youth. Around 17 per cent of adults – both male and female – now smoke, compared to just under 60 per cent of men and about 30 per cent of women in the early 1960s. To find the rate of male lung cancer per 100,000 population that we have today, you have to go back to 1962. Female rates are much lower and will never reach the heights seen in men. Diseases caused by smoking may well become uncommon again by the next generation," says Professor Chapman.

“Fortunately we’ve been very successful in Australia in using research to motivate the government to take action against tobacco. Tobacco control in Australia has been a template for countries all around the world”.

Using Australia’s success in tobacco control policy to inspire other countries around the world is Professor Chapman’s next challenge. In 2009 he received a grant from the Bloomberg Foundation to foster the publication of research in the journal Tobacco Control. As commissioning editor for low- and middle-income countries he has spent time in China conducting workshops for people wanting to publish in Tobacco Control in Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou.

“China is without a doubt the biggest challenge of any country in the world. It’s got more smokers than any other country easily, more smoking deaths, and it will just have stratospheric numbers of people dying from smoking-caused diseases unless they arrest the growth,” says Professor Chapman.
But he says an interest to take on the challenge is certainly evident within China.

“Of all the countries we’ve been trying to encourage to submit research, China has been the most successful. We have received quite a lot of submissions from China and have been able to publish several of those already.”

Smoking is entrenched in Chinese culture. The People’s Republic is the world’s largest consumer of tobacco and almost a million Chinese die from tobacco-related illnesses every year. The impact on health is still generally not recognised, so much so that more than half of all male doctors smoke. In mid 2009, authorities in Gong'an county in Hubei province ordered government workers to smoke more, setting a target for the amount of cigarettes to be smoked each year in order to boost tax income. They imposed fines and the threat of being fired for those that did not comply. The policy was eventually revoked following criticism.

However, the Chinese government has taken some steps towards the challenge, creating smoke-free environments and anti-smoking mass media messages during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Until then, China’s 350 million smokers were able to smoke anywhere, anytime.

Professor Chapman’s career has been committed to providing research to the Australian government to encourage action in tobacco control policy. His specific goal now for China is to encourage submissions, mentor researchers, and communicate developments in tobacco research that have been happening globally. He has worked with Chinese authors to get their papers up to submission status, and recently supported two papers from researchers at Fudan University which are currently under review and which he hopes will be successful. He is also working with researchers from Hangzhou University.

Professor Chapman hopes that highlighting the challenges that Australia has faced, and the successes in tobacco control policy that have been achieved, will help China face up to the challenge of driving down smoking.

“The profile of China is very different to Australia. We need to understand first of all the cultural differences, and then think about the implications for tobacco control. We don’t really know much about whether the sorts of messages given out to smokers in Australia – like the ‘every cigarette is doing you damage’ ads – would work in the same way in China, or whether there needs to be interim steps before getting to that point,” says Professor Chapman.

“It is like an absolute goldmine of research questions, and it is very exciting”.


Making Money for China

By Min Yang

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Hans Hendrischke was in China during the 1980s and witnessed the birth of the economic miracle that has transformed the country. Min Yang spoke to him about his research and the role played by entrepreneurs in shaping China’s economic success.

China’s transformation as a world power has been phenomenal. It is hard to believe that in just 30 years, China has emerged from relative isolation to become the third largest economy in the world.

Professor Hans Hendrischke

As the new world order unfolds, Hans Hendrischke, Professor of Chinese Political Economy and Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Sydney, is following the trail of China’s recent economic history.

Born in Germany, it was here that he began his studies into China, following the cultural movement that swept through Europe in the 1960s and which prompted an entire generation to think outside the traditional Eurocentric box. “Everybody was looking for something new, something radical,” he says.

After attending university in Taiwan, Japan and London, he became deeply interested in bridging the gap between East and West. In 1979, he travelled to Beijing as a member of the German Embassy, providing diplomatic services for major political leaders of that decade.

“From Hua Guofeng to Deng Xiaoping, I met everybody who was shaping history back then,” he says.

Moving to Australia, he headed the Centre for Chinese Political Economy at Macquarie University, as well as the Department of Chinese Studies at the University of New South Wales before moving to the University of Sydney.

His research has yielded an impressive range of publications on the Chinese economy, and he is currently focusing on the rise of entrepreneurs and their role in accelerating China’s economic success.

It was under Deng Xiaoping’s leadership that China began the task of transforming itself from a country burdened by endless political turmoil into one of great prosperity. Deng himself is credited with giving the green light to the process, although whether he actually said “To get rich is glorious” remains a matter of historical debate.

But what is undeniable is that China’s formerly State-controlled economy is now dominated by the private sector, opening the floodgates for new markets and new businesses. And although the success of privatisation has been repeated in other economies throughout the world, nowhere has seen the same growth as China with its average GDP growth rate exceeding 10 per cent per year.

So what is it about the Chinese economy that has enabled such unprecedented growth?

Professor Hendrischke identifies several factors, including the influence of traditional Chinese culture on business practices, which has shaped a particular set of economic conditions which in turn have cultivated a breed of entrepreneurs different to those found anywhere else in the world.

The inherently flexible nature of Chinese firms is one important advantage. Western models tend to maintain a rigid conception of a firm’s identity – an identity that is closely related to, or even defined, by its core competency. Chinese entrepreneurs, on the other hand, demonstrate a ready willingness to change and restructure. “Most have a shelf-life of only three to four years, but this doesn’t mean they go bankrupt. Instead, stakeholders simply decide to reconfigure the firm’s ownership and identity,” says Professor Hendrischke.

“What you have are firms that are set up to use new economic opportunities, rather than ones pursuing a special line of product or technology. This is a move away from standard management models based on a firm’s core competency.

“A Chinese firm would say, ‘Why do we need only one competence? We may need one for three years, and then if the market changes, we will just buy into another, more relevant one.’”

Such is the business acumen behind enterprises such as Fosun International, established in 1992 and currently the largest privately-owned conglomerate in China. Its chairman, Guo Guangchang, is the second wealthiest person in the country, with a net worth over 30 billion yuan.

Fosun’s first business venture was in 1999, involving investment in a single apartment building. As its success and revenue grew, the company began to purchase state-run enterprises, expanding into biotech industries, and then continuing to create niche businesses which would appeal to Western investors.

Arising from humble beginnings, today Fosun is one of the Top 100 enterprises in China. Its business operations span numerous industries including pharmaceuticals, property development, steel, mining, retail, services and strategic investments, with many subsidiary companies within each business. Fosun has also enjoyed steady growth in its portfolio companies, which are, in most cases, among the Top 10 players in their respective industries.

Such flexibility is crucial to Fosun’s success. According to Guo, the corporation’s ability to “explore and capture China’s high growth investment opportunities” has helped secure Fosun’s prominent position in the Chinese market.

Another feature unique to the Chinese economy is its ‘networking’ business structure. Business in the West follows a strict legal model, in which enterprises are subject to complex webs of rules and regulations. But the legal structures governing Chinese businesses are not as far-reaching, and this enables entrepreneurial flexibility.

Professor Hendrischke says business in China is more focused on the idea of ‘networking’ and personal relations (guanxi). “The Chinese see these relations as absolutely crucial for human interaction. Even in big corporations, the conduct of business is less corporate and more like a family. Entrepreneurs wishing to enter into economic relations use this type of network structure as a way to build their enterprises.”

Such family ideology engenders trust and offers a solid system of support for all the stakeholders. Unlike their Western counterparts who are bound by rigidly established rules and regulations, the Chinese market is young in comparison, which gives entrepreneurs the freedom to make business decisions on a much more personalised basis. As a result, entrepreneurial cooperation amongst the Chinese is further strengthened, bound by common goals of profit and revenue, as well as notions of familial loyalty.

The success of Chinese entrepreneurs has not only paved the way for China’s emergence as a world power, says Professor Hendrischke, it has also drastically improved standards of living for millions of Chinese.

“In the last 20 years, China’s poverty level has been halved as a result of entrepreneurial activities in developed provinces. These economic benefits feed into the central state revenue, which are then redistributed to poorer, less-developed areas.”

This redistribution is not a simple transfer of money to alleviate poverty – rather, the money aids the development of infrastructure, providing long-term, nationwide advantages by transforming rural provinces into economically viable places of business. To date, the government has funded more than 100 projects in China’s western provinces alone.

The far western region of Xinjiang, for example, has recently been involved in discussions with the central government about a ‘pairing assistance’ scheme, which will see more affluent provinces and cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, being assigned to support and develop different areas of Xinjiang.

Over the next decade, the Chinese government aims to ensure Xinjiang becomes a region of prosperity, rather than a region requiring assistance. The aim is to encourage the creation of new entrepreneurs, improve living standards, and strengthen China’s domestic economy.

Whether the policy is successful remains to be seen – but in China, just as in the world as a whole, there is a conscious effort to narrow the gap between east and west.


Logical Progression

By Richard North

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In the second half of the 20th century, the digital logic used by computers and other electronic devices drove the world’s technological revolution.

But in the search for faster, smaller and more complex electronic devices, scientists are focusing on a new way of processing information that promises to be infinitely more powerful than the traditional binary system of ones and zeros.

The new technology, known as spintronics, will be the subject of the first Frontiers of Knowledge symposium staged by the University of Sydney at the Shanghai Expo on 28 June.

The symposium will be chaired by Professor Simon Ringer, Director of the University’s Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis (sydney.edu.au/acmm/) and one of Australia’s leading spintronics researchers. It will also involve world-leading Chinese researchers from Nanjing, Tsinghua and Shanghai Jiao-Tong universities.

Spintronics takes its name from the way that electrons spin whilst they move around, for example in electric circuits.

Professor Simon Ringer

Professor Ringer said: “Conventional information technology uses the electron’s electrical charge as a way of conveying information. The current rectification processes and the logic paradigm that follows is relatively simple, albeit elegant. Spintronics greatly adds to this by also exploiting the electron’s spinning characteristics.”

Scientists are now looking at the many different ways of injecting spin into electrons via magnetism. “There are great research opportunities here,” said Professor Ringer.

“It opens up a huge new range of possibilities for communicating information beyond the digital logic of ones and zeros that we are currently familiar with.

“This will be a real game-changer for electronics and data storage as we learn to harness the opportunities. We are looking at advances in data storage, computer logic, parallel processing, memory capacity – the next couple of decades are going to be a really exciting time and it isn’t all going to happen in Silicon Valley.”

Research that takes place in nanoseconds at a sub-atomic scale is familiar territory for Professor Ringer, who was appointed director of the University’s electron microscope unit – now the ACMM – in 2001.

Since then, the ACMM has become the national headquarters of the Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility, a national grid of laboratories that provides Australian researchers with state-of-the-art instrumentation and expertise to explore the structure and chemistry of materials.

“Our expertise in microscopy gives us the opportunity to lead the way in spintronics research,” said Professor Ringer. “We have built up a good knowledge about the physics and the materials science of what’s going on.”

He sometimes compares himself to a watchmaker, peering through a magnifying glass or an eyepiece to put together the pieces of a watch.

“Like the watchmaker, the nanotechnologist ‘looks’ through an electron microscope or an atom probe to do the materials engineering that will, in this case, allow us to inject, maintain and read the spin of the electrons.”

China to the fore

China is one of the world’s leading players in spintronics research, says Professor Simon Ringer.

“China identified spintronics as a key priority some years ago, and some of the symposium participants – including Professor Rong Zhang from Nanjing University and Professor Qikun Xue from Tsinghua University are actively involved in world-leading research.

“China has decided that it will play a lead role in this research endeavour and Chinese research is a great force in the field.”
Professor Ringer said Australia was in a leading position in the fundamental science of spintronics, and that big opportunities remained in terms of establishing intellectual property around design in device materials and in fabrication strategies.

Notes to editors

    Contacts

    Professor Simon Ringer
    Director of the Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis
    02 9351 4215
    simon.ringer@sydney.edu.au

    Richard North
    International media and communications manager
    02 9351 3191
    0425 395 370
    richard.north@sydney.edu.au