2013 Australian Studies Conference in China

Australia’s China/China’s Australia: Past, Present and Future


PKUASC September 2013 Conference

Where: Peking University, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

When: Saturday and Sunday 21–22 September 2013

Hosted by the Peking University Australian Studies Centre, in collaboration with the Foundation for Australian Studies in China

Opened by Her Excellency Ms Frances Adamson, the Australian Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China

Convened by Professor David Walker, BHP Billiton Chair of Australian Studies at Peking University

About the Conference:

The ‘Australia’s China/China’s Australia: Past, Present and Future’ conference was the first major academic conference hosted by the Peking University Australian Studies Centre under the BHP Billiton Chair of Australian Studies program. The event drew prominent speakers and dignitaries from both Australia and China, and was well attended across both days by hundreds of local and international academics, diplomats, journalists and students.

The conference addressed three key themes; the nature of Australia’s strategic relationship with China, the purpose and politics of Asian engagement in Australia, and what it might mean to be Asia/China-literate.

From the 1980s (and earlier) Australians have been urged to shift their gaze from Britain and Europe to Asia. The Gillard government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper reaffirmed the need for Australians to recognise that the rise of Asia, and not least China, has already transformed the region we live in. There are renewed calls for Australia to ‘know’ Asia and to broaden and deepen ties to the region.

The conference explored the major challenges to knowing Asia and assessed the strengths, limitations and opportunities for closer engagement with China. Held in the immediate aftermath of the 2013 Australian federal election, the conference provided an ideal opportunity to reflect on the history of Australia-China engagement and its likely future.


Speakers were grouped into six different panels to discuss diverse aspects of domestic, bilateral and international affairs:

Panel One: Politics and Perception in the China Choice

  • Paul Kelly (Chair), Editor-at-Large, The Australian
  • Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University
  • Zha Daojiong, Professor of International Political Economy, School of International Studies, Peking University
  • Jin Canrong, Professor and Associate Dean, School of International Studies, Renmin University of China

Panel Two: Regional Disputes

  • Kevin Hobgood-Brown (Chair), Managing Director, Foundation for Australian Studies in China, and Managing Director, Riverstone Advisory
  • Hou Minyue, Deputy Director, Australian Studies Centre, East China Normal University
  • Rikki Kersten, Professor, Department of Political & Social Change, School of International, Political & Strategic Studies, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • John McCarthy, President, Australian Institute of International Affairs

Panel Three: Understanding the Rise of China

  • David Walker (Chair), BHP Billiton Chair of Australian Studies at Peking University
  • Kanishka Jayasuriya, Professor and Director of the Indo-Pacific Governance Research Centre, Department of Politics and International Studies, The University of Adelaide
  • Chengxin Pan, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Deakin University
  • Lauren Johnston, PhD, Economics, Peking University and Founder of Sinograduate.com

Panel Four: The Inscrutable Australian

  • Liu Shusen (Chair), Deputy Dean of the School of Foreign Languages, and Secretary-General of the Australian Studies Centre, Peking University
  • Zhang Yongxian, Professor of English, and Director, Australian Studies Centre, and Standing Deputy Director, School of Foreign Languages, Renmin University of China
  • Chen Hong, Director, Australian Studies Centre, East China Normal University (ECNU) Shanghai
  • Han Feng, Deputy Director, Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)
  • Li Youwen, Associate Professor, Australian Studies Centre, Beijing Foreign Studies University

Panel Five: Asia Literacy and Educational Futures

  • Zhang Wei (Chair), Professor of Journalism and Director, Centre for Australian Studies at Shandong University at Weihai
  • Greg McCarthy, Head of School of Social Sciences, The University of Adelaide
  • Christine Halse, Chair, Education, Deakin University Australia
  • David Kelly, Research Director, China Policy

Panel Six: Australia China Youth Association Panel – Our China Dream: Personal Perspectives from Beyond the Blackboard

  • Geraldine Doogue (Chair), Journalist and Presenter, Saturday Extra, ABC Radio
  • Sophie Smith
  • Oliver Theobald
  • Neil Thomas
  • Elliot Clutterbuck

A banquet dinner was held on the first Saturday night, where Dr Geoff Raby, former Australian Ambassador to China and CEO of Geoff Raby & Associates, launched the new book W.H. Donald’s File: The Adventure of An Australian in Modern China (1903-1946) by Zhang Wei. Li Jianjun, Director of the Australian Studies Centre at Beijing Foreign Studies University, then announced the winners of a student Translation Competition held in anticipation of the conference. Guests were then entertained by Chinese cultural performances from Australian students studying in China.



“Australia is very much an occasional referent among the numerous academic conferences held in Beijing on international security. By organizing the Australia’s China/China’s Australia conference (21-22 September 2013), FASIC brought to town a valuable intellectual service. The conference helped to expose the thickness and diversity of Australian academic expertise. It will go a long way in enriching Chinese understanding of Australian perspectives and policies towards China and more broadly as well.”

Professor Zha Daojiong, Peking University

“This was a very important conference, timely especially after the Australian election when people here in China have also been thinking about the future of China-Australia relations. The conference was superbly organised, bringing together heavyweight Australian political and social commentators and academics, and also scholars and students from China’s leading Australian Studies Centres. We certainly look forward to the next event organised by Prof. Walker and FASIC.”

Professor Chen Hong, East China Normal University

“Australia’s China/China’s Australia was a remarkable success. It gave the best opportunity I’ve had to explore how the many elements of this complex relationship interact, and especially to do so not just through the eyes of Australian experts, but through those of outstanding Chinese scholars, and of the very impressive cohort of young Australians living and working in China today.”

Professor Hugh White, Australian National University

“This was a conference that will live in the memory of all who attended and bodes well for the intellectual engagement between Australia and China. FASIC is to be congratulated on this outstanding initiative.”

Professor Greg McCarthy, Adelaide University

“The Peking University conference Australia’s China/China’s Australia showcased very effectively the ongoing spirit of enquiry between contemporary Australians and Chinese. You couldn’t predict people’s approach, which is always refreshing. So you had to pay close attention to nuance and shifting observations. Plus there was a sense of genuine people-to-people inquisitiveness that isn’t always a feature of seminars. It was invigorating and even fun!”

Geraldine Doogue, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

“In my view this conference was successful. The attendance was good with a conspicuous commitment from the students. There was a strong team of presenters from both Australia and China with imagination in the selected themes. The dialogue was meaningful; the sessions didn’t get bogged down in set pieces. People spoke frankly and questions from the floor were pertinent. I think the visiting Australians were pleased with the outcome and got benefit from the conference.”

Paul Kelly, The Australian

“The conference got the blend right between intellectually demanding debate on security issues and our economic challenges onthe one hand and the crucial people to people dimension to diplomacy on the other. This dimension is increasingly being recognized as the third leg of the stool in international relationships. In this connection, the reflections of young Australians on China and the Chinese were particularly illuminating. We need more of this sort of discussion – above all amongst the coming generation.”

John McCarthy, Australian Institute of International Affairs


More reflections of the conference can be found here.

Full details of the conference program can be found here.