The Forum for the 45th Anniversary of China-Australia Diplomatic Relations convened on the 31st October at Peking University. Academics and China-Australia experts participated in and presented their research at the forum, which centred on the Belt and Road Initiative and its continuing significance for the China-Australia economic, business and cultural relationships.

At the first session of the forum, five keynote speakers: Professor Huang Yiping, Professor Colin Mackerras, Professor Ding Dou, Professor Kanishka Jayasuriya and A/Professor Wu Qiaoling presented to the Forum. They unpacked China-Australia relations up to 1972, and looked at how this diplomatic history will shape the relationship into the future.

Professor Huang Yiping of Peking University discussed China-Australia trade relations with reference to the three engines of industrial capacity: export, investment and consumption. He looked at how trade relations had their roots in export and investment markets during China’s rapid industrialization. From this he highlighted the shift towards the consumption market due to the progress in which China overcomes the middle-income trap.

Professor Colin Mackerras of Griffith University gave an evaluation of the 45 years of China-Australia relations, noting its transition from hostility to friendship. He then elaborated on how this transition is informed by the conflict between Australia’s transforming economic, educative and cultural ties to China and its historical leanings towards the US.

Professor Ding Dou of Peking University drew light on the influence the China-US relationship has on that between China and Australia. He placed emphasis on how the ideological differences engendered by this influence must be overcome, surmising from this the need for a more evaluative focus as China’s economic growth increasingly imposes itself on Australia’s economic structure.

Professor Kanishka Jayasuriya of Murdoch University elaborated on the development of the establishment of the current China-Australia relationship, using this history as a basis to underscore the need for more candidness in discussing its current issues. He further highlighted the significance context plays in the way that China will continue to take a key role in influencing Australia’s political and social fabric.

A/Professor Wu Qiaoling of Peking University framed China’s experience with education in Australia with a personal story of her son’s own development within the Australian education system. She drew from these experiences the meaningfulness that education plays in connecting the two counties.

Following the presentation of these ideas, the dialogue opened into a discussion about the China-Australia relationship generally. Key talking points during the discussion included the mounting political tensions as regional disparity widened and certain social groups began to feel left out of the relationship; Australia’s self-revaluation as investment shifts and takes new forms; as well as the need for drastic land reform policies, social policies and serious conversation on what kind of trade is to be focused on.

The second session consisted of a further five keynote speakers: Professor Greg McCarthy, A/Professor Sheng Yu, Dr Jeffrey Wilson, A/Professor Chen Changwei, and Dr. Priya Chacko, each offering compelling and unique arguments on how we might conceptualise different aspects of Sino-Australian relations from the past and also for the future.

Peking University’s BHP Billiton Chair and Professor of Australian Studies, Professor Greg McCarthy, opened the second session and explored the impact of Australia-China relations in academia and in the education system in both countries. He explored the influences, points of division in Australian state governments, and historical and potential future implications.

A/Professor Sheng Yu of Peking University discussed the changing trends in industries, markets, and international relations in China, and looked at how Australia might respond to these growing and changing domestic demands. Dr Jeffrey Wilson from Murdoch University further explored the need to discuss Australian domestic trade issues in consideration of this changing context, and judiciously questioned the sustainability of Australia’s narrow economic relationship with China.

A/Professor Chen Changwei of Peking University discussed the changing nature of Australia’s relationship with China during and after the Cold War and the implications that arose from certain Australian political stances and their interpretations by the wider Australian public. Dr Priya Chacko from the University of Adelaide ended the second session with a fascinating analysis, looking at some of the contradictions between economic and political approaches when considering the Belt and Road Initiative.

Along with Professor Greg McCarthy, Chloe Dempsey, Assistant Research Coordinator of the Australian Studies Centre and interns, Janet Shen and Reade Allison attended the roundtable.

 

Janet Shen and Reade Allison