China Studies Centre

2012 Distinguished Speaker Lecture Series

The joys and difficulties of being a foreign correspondent in China

6 December

There has never been a better time to be a foreign journalist in China. The country is undergoing a radical transformation that is changing the lives of everyone who lives there – and reporters have a ringside seat. What makes this an even better assignment is that there are relatively few foreign journalists reporting from a country that is still little understood by the outside world. But there are difficulties, not least from a sometimes hostile government that thinks foreign reporters are at best misguided, at worst anti-China. I will explain what it is like to be a journalist in China and look back on my five years as a correspondent for the BBC in Beijing.

Michael Bristow has been a journalist for nearly 20 years, starting out as a reporter on a weekly newspaper before moving to an evening publication and then on to the UK’s Press Association. He then switched to broadcasting, initially working for the BBC World Service. For the last five years Michael was a correspondent for the BBC in China, a country he first studied at university. His reports on everything, from politics to the occasional outbreak of plague, have appeared on TV, radio and online. He reported on the Sichuan earthquake, the Beijing Olympics and unrest in Tibet, as well as trying to work out exactly who’s ruling the country. He has just left China and moved back to the UK, where he is attempting to write a book.

Listen to the audio podcast online. Click here (MP3, 59 mins, 27.4Mb)

New South Wales and China in the 40th Anniversary Year of the Australia-China Relationship

6 November

Join Australia's Ambassador to China, Her Excellency Ms Frances Adamson, as she shares her insight into the evolving relationship between Australia and China from a NSW perspective since diplomatic relations began forty years ago.

Frances Adamson took up her posting as Ambassador in August 2011. She served in the Australian Consulate-General in Hong Kong in the late 1980s, during the early years of China's reform and opening, and first visited mainland China in 1987. She was seconded as Representative to the Australian Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei from 2001 to 2005. She has had two postings (1993 to 1997 and 2005 to 2008) to the Australian High Commission in London, did a brief stint at the Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York in 1992 and was Chief of Staff to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and then the Minister for Defence in 2009 and 2010.

Ms Adamson is honorary patron of the China-Australia Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, patron of the Australia China Alumni Association, a member of the Advisory Board of the Australian National University's Australian Centre on China in the World and a member of the national Board of the Australia China Business Council.

Ms Adamson speaks Mandarin and has worked on China-related matters for 21 out of her 27-year career with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Listen to the audio podcast online. Click here (MP3, 53 mins, 49.1Mb)

China and the Fifth Generation Leadership: China Moves into the Era of Socio Political Change

16 October

The Communist Party of China is about to undergo a major leadership transition. The era of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao is drawing to a close. They have guided the People’s Republic of China towards becoming the world’s second largest economy – but they leave power in a country where over 120 million people are still living in poverty, and where there are immense challenges in terms of inequality, social stability and a sustainable economic future. This talk will look at how we can assess the Hu and Wen period, and how the future leaders will deal with a transition into an era in which the greatest challenges will be socio-political. It will look at the likely scenarios the Communist Party will face as it moves towards middle income status by 2020, and it will try to answer the question of what China might look like at the end of the next decade.

Professor Kerry Brown is Executive Director of the China Studies Centre, and Professor of Chinese Politics at the University of Sydney. He leads the Europe China Research and Advice Network (ECRAN), funded by the European Commission. Prior to this he was Head of the Asia Programme at Chatham House. Educated at Cambridge, London and Leeds Universities, he worked in Japan, and the Inner Mongolian region of China, before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. He worked in the China Section and then served as First Secretary, Beijing, from 2000 to 2003, and Head of the Indonesia East Timor Section at the FCO from 2003 to 2005.

Kerry Brown is the author of The Cultural Revolution in Inner Mongolia (2006), Struggling Giant: China in the 21st Century (2007), The Rise of the Dragon – Chinese Investment Flows in the Reform Period (2008), Friends and Enemies: The Past, Present and Future of the Communist Party of China (2009), Ballot Box China (2011), along with an edited collection China 2020 . Hu Jintao, China’s Silent Leader has just been published, and he is working on the Palgrave Macmillan Introduction to China, to appear in early 2013.

Listen to the audio podcast online. click here (MP3, 1 hour 1 min, 28.3Mb)

When China Rules the World

14 September

The rise of China is reshaping the world. The Western financial crisis has accelerated this process. We are already witnessing the beginnings of a Chinese economic order. The consequences, however, will be as much political, cultural, intellectual, moral and military as economic. The international order will, over time, be profoundly restructured. But what will China be like as a global power? The abiding problem in the West has been the desire to understand China through a Western prism. It does not work. Unless we understand China in its own terms we will be unable to make sense of it. And unless we understand China, we will be unable to grasp the nature of the new global order.

Martin Jacques s is the author of the global best-seller When China Rules the World: the End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order It was first published in 2009 and has since been translated into eleven languages. The book has been shortlisted for two major literary awards. A second edition of the book, greatly expanded and fully updated, was published on 29 March 2012. His TED talk on how to understand China has had almost one million views. He is a Senior Visiting Fellow at IDEAS, a centre for diplomacy and grand strategy at the London School of Economics, and a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. He is also a Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy, Washington DC. He has previously been a Visiting Professor at Renmin University, the International Centre for Chinese Studies, Aichi University, Nagoya, and Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto. He was a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. He was formerly the editor of the renowned London-based monthly Marxism Today until its closure in 1991 and was co-founder of the think-tank Demos. He has been a columnist for many newspapers, made many television programmes and is a former deputy editor of The Independent newspaper. He took his doctorate while at King’s College, Cambridge.

Listen to the audio podcast online. Click here (MP3, 1 hour 39 mins, 45.7Mb)

How to Turn Philosophical Ideas into Diagrams: Chinese approaches and insights

14 August

During a period of about 200 years, from the mid-12th to the mid-14th centuries, Confucian scholars produced – in large quantities – diagrams, which aimed to provide the reader with tools for textual analysis. In these diagrams, the arrangement of the sentences from the Classics is a non-linear one, the mapping of the text segments allows for a different kind of intuition, which eventually leads to a new understanding of the meaning of the text. The presentation will shed some light on possible precedents of this new form of diagrams, and also give an introduction into the multi-faceted functioning of diagrams on the basis of selected material.

Professor Michael Lackner is Chair of Chinese Studies, Department of Middle Eastern and Far Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. He has studied Sinology, Ethnology, Political Science and Philosophy in Heidelberg, Munich, and Paris. His fields of study encompass Song dynasty philosophical thought and learned practices, the Jesuit mission in China, the history of divination, and the formation of modern Chinese scientific terminology and disciplines.

China, Climate Change and Sustainability: spins, facts and realpolitik

2 August

Dr Wen’s presentation will start with an overview of China's existing actions on climate change, and place current commitments in relation to other countries. She will argue that contrary to popular misconception in the West, China has already engaged and implemented quite substantial efforts to address climate change. China’s investments in clean energy are e.g. Almost double that of the United States’, and around three times in terms of percentage of GDP. Yet, these efforts are still not enough to counter climate change or to ensure sustainable development. Dr Wen will highlight some of the challenges for China, how the current growth centred development model must be changed, and some of the implications of this.

Dr. Wen will furthermore analyse the political situation regarding China's position in the climate negotiations. How did the China blame game after the Copenhagen climate summit fuel climate skepticism within the country and prove counterproductive? What are the different and often competing schools of thought among China’s ruling elite and academics regarding the future climate regime?

Finally she will share ideas why it is important for the west and China to collaborate on sustainability issues and possible ways forward to rebuild trust.

Dr Dale Jiajun Wen is a scholar, activist and writer who has focused on sustainable development issues for more than a decade. Her current research focus includes sustainable agriculture, climate change, energy security, and other globalization related issues. She has worked closely with organisations such as Third World Network, South Center and the International Forum on Globalization, and is currently based in Germany. In 2005, she published a short book China Copes with Globalization: A mixed review, which examined the environmental and social impacts of China's breakneck industrialisation and surveyed alternative voices in the Chinese scene, including the environmental movement and the rural reconstruction movement.

The Recent Development of China’s Civil Society

21 May

Professor Yu Keping, Director of the Center for Chinese Government Innovations at Beijing University

After the 30-plus years’ of reform and opening up, Chinese society has been gaining more independent space and growth momentum which have rarely been seen in Chinese history. In this presentation, Professor Yu argues, a relatively independent civil society is emerging in China thanks to the introduction of market economy and progress of democratic governance in China. Professor Yu details the categorisation, characteristics, progress and limitations as well as implications of civil society in China. In his view, the growth of China’s civil society is irreversible from the long run since a market economy and democratic system will call for a civil society in place. China’s aspiration for market economy and pledge to democracy make the development of civil society a necessity for China although it could possibly face some setbacks from time to time.

After Professor Yu's presentation he will be in conversation with Professor John Keane, Director of the Sydney Democracy Initiative and Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney.

Professor Yu Keping is Professor and Director of the China Center for Comparative Politics and Economics (CCCPE), and also Professor and Director, Center for Chinese Government Innovations, Peking University and Institute of Political Development, Tsinghua University. He currently serves as Deputy Director of Bureau of Translation of the CCP Central Committee. His major fields of expertise include political philosophy, comparative politics, globalization, civil society, governance and politics in China. His English work includes Democracy is a good thing (2009) and Globalization and Changes in China’s Governance (2008).

Telling Chinese Stories

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.’ This is the famous opening line of Joan Didion’s 1979 The White Album, a series of autobiographical essays about the 1960s. Individuals create narratives related to their own lives, as do groups, societies, political parties and nations. From the dying days of the Qing dynasty, the thinker and reformist Liang Qichao wrote about the need for China to have a new history, one that would both reflect its changed realities and help make it a modern nation.

Many of those who engage with the Chinese world encounter the stories that are told about China–there is the monolithic narrative of the party-state, the multiple stories of individuals, companies, communities, and then there are the array of accounts and told about China, some that try to deepen understand others that evoke.

History and national narratives express aspirations as well as political agendas. Australia too is a country that tells itself stories. At around the time that the Chinese Communist Party’s General Secretary Hu Jintao announced the ‘Eight Glories Eight Shames’ (ba rong ba chi) as part of the new socialist values strategy in 2006, the then Liberal Coalition Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his Education Minister Brendan Nelson championed a list of nine ‘Values for Australian Schooling’. They were part of a response to our local ‘history wars’.

Since 2008, the People’s Republic of China has increasingly focused on ‘telling the China story’, as the former PRC ambassador to Australia Fu Ying has put it. Understanding the official ‘China Story’ as well as some crucial variations of it– ‘telling Chinese stories’– is crucial to a broad-based engagement with the contemporary Chinese world.

This lecture will consider how some of these stories have come to be told, by whom and for whom, and what this may mean for those who pay attention. It will also introduce The China Story, a publishing and Internet project being launched by the Australian Centre on China in the World.

Geremie R Barmé is an historian, cultural critic, filmmaker, translator and web-journal editor. He works on Chinese cultural and intellectual history from the early modern period (1600s) to the present. From 2006 to 2011 he held an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship and, in 2010, he became the founding director of the Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW) at The Australian National University.

He is the editor of the e-journal China Heritage Quarterly ( and he is presently working with the oral historian Sang Ye on a book entitled [[||Inside the Rings of Beijing: China’s Global Aura]], a monograph related to Dream of the Red Chamber and Qing history in modern China, and a study of the Garden of Perfect Brightness (Yuanming Yuan). His last book was The Forbidden City (London: Profile Books and Harvard University Press, 2008, reprinted 2012), and he is preparing a work on what he calls New Sinology.

Listen to the audio podcast online. click here (MP3, 1 hour 22 mins, 37.6Mb)

Chinese Exceptionalism in the International Relations

14 March

Feng Zhang, Politics and International Studies, Murdoch University

Although exceptionalism is an important dimension of China’s foreign policy, Dr Feng Zhang from Murdoch University argues, it has not been a subject of serious scholarly research. In this lecture, Dr Zhang attempts to examine the manifestations and sources of contemporary Chinese exceptionalism and explain its implications for foreign policy.

Chinese exceptionalism is defined by great power reformism, benevolent pacifism, and harmonious inclusionism. While resting on an important factual basis, it is constructed by mixing facts with myths through selective use of China’s vast historical and cultural experiences. Exceptionalism does not determine policy, but by being an essential part of the worldview of the Chinese government and many intellectuals, it can become an important source for policy ideas. It can be further seen as a normative theory for China’s foreign policy, as one among six major schools competing for ideational influence in China’s foreign policy formation.

Feng Zhang is a Lecturer in the Politics and International Studies program of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at Murdoch University. Feng works on China’s foreign relations and the international politics of East Asia, focusing on three related questions: historical East Asian politics and China’s central role in it, contemporary Chinese foreign policy especially with regard to policy ideas and grand strategy, and international relations theory from a Chinese perspective.

Listen to the audio podcast online. click here (MP3, 1 hour 25 mins, 39.4Mb)