Chapter 16 - Public diplomacy, culture and sport, and the Chinese-Australian community
Relationships are an intrinsic part of the whole deal with China,
but we need to get to know her and we need to look at her not just as a
superpower with geographic proximity to us and a big trade dollar. It has to be
more than a marriage of convenience. We have to get to know the Chinese people
so that relationships are built on trust, respect and transparency, and it has
to come from both sides.
This chapter will consider the role of culture, sport,
and tourism as a means to promote China
literacy and the broader bilateral relationship. It will include a case study
of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO) visit—illustrating the means
through which greater understanding between our two nations can be attained as
well as its utility as a platform for the political and economic relationship. It
will then consider the role of the Chinese–Australian community in Australia.
Communication through culture and sport is a highly
effective means of promoting understanding and awareness and bringing people
together. It can have flow-on benefits for the economic and political
Australians have every reason to be proud of their
culture. Indeed, the Australian Film Commission has noted:
For Australia, culture is a vital element of our national sovereignty,
providing the opportunity for the expression of the nation's regional, ethnic
and historical diversity. The development of a national culture, shared values
and national identity, as expressed through our cultural production is
considered by many to be a sign of good governance.
Cultural exchange provides a means whereby Australians can
tell other nations about Australia
and its people. It enables Australians to demonstrate how we conceive of
ourselves, where we have come from, and where we are going as a nation.
Similarly, exposure to the cultural products of other nations, such as China,
enables us to learn about them.
Cultural interaction and public diplomacy
Public diplomacy refers to government activities that
are designed to communicate cultural understanding, and create a positive
perception or promote the activities of a nation or government. Jocelyn Chey
Like companies and institutions, national governments commission
activities designed to improve relations with the public. If the government's
targeted recipients are located offshore, these plans or activities become part
of official international relations or what is usually called 'public diplomacy.'
Numerous foreign governments have recognised the role
of cultural communication and public diplomacy in promoting positive
perceptions and facilitating relations with the peoples of other countries. The
UK has recently
published a major report on its public diplomacy program in China
entitled Think UK. In his foreward to the final
report assessing the success of the Think
UK project, HE Christopher Hurn, British Ambassador to China,
Engagement between the UK and China is of fundamental importance
to both countries. Having an accurate perception of each other's country helps us
get the best out of our relationship. During the research for Think UK we tried
to see Britain through Chinese eyes. We found that all too often it was backward-looking
perceptions which predominated—tradition, continuity, conservatism, the
achievements and impacts of the Industrial Revolution. We sought to show that
the UK has come a long way since then. Think UK
set out to demonstrate how modern Britain
was diverse, innovative, and full of creative ideas that were changing our
world...as a result of Think UK I believe that increasing numbers of Chinese
people will choose to become involved with Britain,
and form long-lasting partnerships.
The United States government also places a high premium
on successful public diplomacy which tends to be more geared towards subtle
political influence—promoting understanding and identification with policies
and political agendas—rather than fostering societal or cultural understanding.
Mr Christopher Ross, former coordinator for public diplomacy and public affairs
at the US Department of State has written:
[Public Diplomacy] is not traditional diplomacy, which consists
essentially of the interactions that take place between governments. The
practitioners of traditional diplomacy engage the representatives of foreign
governments in order to advance the national interest articulated in their own
government's strategic goals in international affairs. Public diplomacy, by
contrast, engages carefully targeted sectors of foreign publics in order to
develop support for those same strategic results.
All activities conducted under the auspices of public
diplomacy have as their underlying aim the promotion of understanding about a
nation's people or way of life. Ross described
it as a longer term effort to develop an overseas understanding and appreciation
of a nation's society, people and values.
as a mid ranking power in the Asia Pacific, does not have the resources to
engage in an expansive public diplomacy strategy. That does not mean, however,
that there is not scope for more activity. Australia should actively promote
overseas understanding of our society, people and values. More effort in
promoting Australian political, cultural and social activity will be of direct
benefit to Australia
and will promote greater understanding and affinity between the people of China
Fostering Australia–China relations
Having considered the nature of cultural interaction
and public diplomacy, we now turn to its use as a means to foster
Chey has written that, following the establishment of
diplomatic relations between Australia
and China in
embarked upon a new era of extensive international diplomacy. Throughout the
1970s, the aims of Australia's
international public diplomacy and cultural relations were to promote an image
of a new and independent Australia,
consolidate regional relationships, enrich the domestic arts and satisfy the
aspirations of members of the emerging multicultural society who were eager to
reinforce ties with their homelands:
When the government normalised relations with China, cultural
relations assumed a prominent place in the bilateral relationship. Scholars,
artists and the general public all enthusiastically embraced opportunities for
engagement with China.
The 1980s saw the development of increasingly strong
cultural relations between China and Australia, especially following the
implementation of Deng Xiaoping's 'Open Door' policies. Chey claims that the
increased economic freedom had a flow on effect into the arts. The Chinese were
increasingly allowed to access foreign radio broadcasts (such as Radio
Australia), and a number of official cultural exchanges took place, including
an exhibition of paintings from the Ming and Qing dynasties from the Palace
Museum, and an exhibition of
terracotta warrior figures from the tomb of the First Emperor of Qin.
Australian photographic and contemporary art exhibitions toured China. China's
'Open Door' policies also created new opportunities for cultural exchanges
managed by commercial interests or community organisations.
The positive gains achieved through the 1980s were,
however, set back by the Tiananmen Square massacre and
the rise of Pauline Hanson's
One Nation Party in the late 1990s. Chey observed that although official
cultural exchanges suffered during this period 'the real force emerging as the
foundation of the relationship...was not government-led and government-directed,
but people-to-people social contacts and cultural networks'. According to Chey,
the development of relations during the 1990s were due to the active promotion of
multiculturalism, and the expanding number of Chinese migrants to Australia who
were keen to explore their cultural roots and national identity.
and China have
shared a considerable history of cultural exchange since the initiation of
diplomatic relations in 1972. According to the West Australian Symphony
Orchestra, this history is of great significance to the bilateral relationship:
Mutually beneficial cultural exchange programs between Australia
and China have been highlighted as an essential component of the relationship
between the two countries, strengthening the political, social and cultural
visited Western Australia (WA) in April 2004, she commented on the
responsibility incumbent upon both nations to continue to foster greater
cultural understanding. According to the WA Department of Culture and the Arts,
Ying and Cultural Counsellor Mr
Made it clear that cultural exchange projects were highly
important to the future of the trading relationship and that they hoped to see
increased levels of cultural exchange to match the increased levels of trade.
Various witnesses to this inquiry drew the committee's
attention to the need for Australia
to take a more proactive stance in cultural promotion and public diplomacy. The
WA government underlined the need for increasing trading links to be met with
growing cultural interaction. Dr
emphasised the importance of cultural exchange in promoting mutual
understanding, the existence of real interest in China
for Australian cultural product, and the need to spark a similar degree of
interest for Chinese cultural product in Australia:
A few years ago I took an Indigenous exhibition to Guangzhou,
at their request, together with performers from the Torres Strait.
There was an amazing outcome for Australia and for them—almost 30,000 people
attended during the three-week visit. It seems to me that we need to do—and be
supported to do...meaningful exchanges in cultural programs and create an
awareness in the Australian population as much as within the Chinese
outlined the types of areas in which meaningful cultural exchange could take
place, ranging from museum exchanges, science exchanges, cultural
conversations, explorations of joint histories, and public exhibitions in both Australia
and China. She also noted that cultural exchange
is a useful mechanism for bilateral dialogue and communication because it
allows the expression of pride in ones cultural heritage and can avoid the
pitfalls of other 'politicised' forms of engagement.
Evidence to this inquiry has indicated that several
organisations actively work to promote China awareness in Australia, through many
different types of activities.
The Australia–China Council
The Australia–China Council (ACC) was established in
1978 to nurture the relationship between China
and actively promotes cultural exchange.
It has a very small budget of $A740,000 per annum and comprises eight appointed
members and a chair person. The ACC believes that the emphasis on cultural
exchange programs should be on young Chinese and Australians, as 'the future
relationship depends heavily on educating today's young people to understand
The ACC has a residencies program, whereby people interested
in encouraging the relationship between Australia
and China may
stay in an apartment in Beijing for
up to three months. The residencies program is aimed at people involved in
cultural projects, such as artists and writers. The ACC also has a residence
relationship with the University of Hong Kong. The ACC is about to trial a new
program, whereby successful applicants receive an accommodation subsidy.
Ms Dysart told the committee that the independence of
the ACC from government allows it to engage on politico-cultural issues with a
degree of freedom. The ACC has established the Alice Tay Award for Human
Rights, awarded to an Australian applicant who has contributed substantially to
furthering understanding of human rights issues in China. The ACC also brought
the director of the film Blind Shaft
to Australia to attend the Sydney Film Festival. Blind Shaft—although not screened widely in China—provided
information about mine disasters in China. According to Ms Dysart:
[the film screening] was an opportunity for Australians to see
not only what is being produced in China
culturally but also the problems. I also think that, in its own small way, it
sends a signal to China of how Australia feels about those sorts of human
rights issues. We do things like that. The reason we can is that we are
separate from government and people do not question it.
Asialink has had a 15 year involvement with public
diplomacy, developing Asia–Australia relations, with an emphasis on the people-to-people
aspect of bilateral and regional relationships. It believes that public diplomacy
promotes stronger bonds and contributes to the balance of relations. The
underlying aim of its policies is to enhance Australia's
understanding of the region using 'education' in the broadest sense of the
According to Ms Jennifer
McGregor, Executive Director of Asialink,
China has been a
significant focus of Asialink's work, especially in the past few years. She stated that Asialink's
successful arts program has provided a 'template' for the establishment of
other bilateral person-to-person links in the public policy sphere, especially
in the areas of mental health and water use.
Thus it would seem that initial cultural links have paved the way for a number
of other links to be formed across a variety of sectors. Asialink also conducts
a 'Conversations' project, where it brings next-generation leaders from Asia
together to discuss major issues, allowing the formation of personal links
between future decision-makers.
The Confucius Institute
Sigley indicated that, in addition to the
role the Confucius Institute will perform in promoting the study of Chinese
languages, it will also assume a role in promoting Chinese culture. Dr
Sigley stated that the Institute could work
with the Chinese Embassy and the Perth International Arts Festival to bring out
internationally prominent cultural troupes from China,
and would participate in events within the Western Australian cultural calendar
whenever possible. Dr Sigley
also raised the possibility of working with the Australia–China Council to
facilitate an exchange program for artists and writers.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance informed the
committee that during 2003, a number of Chinese commercial live performance
companies toured Australia.
Chinese performers and live performance companies also participated in some of Australia's
major performing arts festivals. Australian audiences have also enjoyed the
performances of a number of Chinese circus companies.
Promoting Australia in China
A number of organisations are involved in promoting
Australian culture in China.
The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA)
informed the committee that in 2002, Australia
was invited to present a week long cultural program at the China Shanghai
International Arts Festival. According
Australia's image as an innovative and sophisticated country was
highlighted through a showcase of contemporary arts which introduced Chinese
audiences to a wide range of arts genres from street theatre, contemporary
dance, orchestral music, circus, physical theatre, new media arts, visual arts
and documentary film.
DCITA also informed the committee that the Australian
film industry has a strong reputation in China—especially in post-production.
The Federal Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator the Hon Rod Kemp,
announced in July 2005 that 10 leading Australian feature films would be
presented in Beijing, Shanghai
and Guangzhou as part of a series
of Australian film festivals. It is intended that the festivals will lead to
increased bilateral cooperation between Australian and Chinese film makers. A
treaty in bilateral film co-production is currently being negotiated, with the
same purpose. The Minister stated:
film industry produces top quality films enjoyed around the world. But
Australian films are relatively unknown to Chinese audiences. We plan to change
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (Alliance)
noted that whilst Chinese cultural performers come to Australia
fairly frequently, 'conversely, Australia's
performing arts companies have rarely been to China.' The Alliance
observes that groups such as Circus Oz and the Flying Fruit Fly Circus have
both brought Chinese artists to Australia
to train with their performers, but neither circus has ever performed in China.
Similarly, Opera Australia has not been seen in China.
noted that dance is one area where Australia
has a higher profile. The Sydney Dance Company was the first western modern
dance company to perform in China. In 1985, the Company performed in four
Chinese cities, and was invited to do so again in 1998. In 2002 they were
invited to perform at the Shanghai International Festival of the Performing
Arts. The Australian Ballet has also toured China
four times in 1993, 1996, 1999 and 2001.
The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra toured China
in 2002 as part of celebrations to mark the 30th anniversary of the
establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia
The Australia–China Council (ACC) outlined its support
for Australian studies centres in 25 universities throughout China.
It considers that these centres are an important part of its program. The ACC provides grants for a
number of projects. It also
supports a biannual Australian Studies Conference in China.
The 2004 conference was held in Xuzhou
and was themed 'Australia
The WASO – A case-study in soft diplomacy/cultural
In its submission, the West Australian Symphony
Orchestra (WASO) detailed its upcoming tour of China.
The committee considers that WASO's activities are an ideal case study for
examining the benefits that can flow from cultural exchange.
The WASO claims that the timing of the proposed tour in
May 2006 is 'absolutely unique within the historic trade negotiations between
our two countries', claiming that the tour would offer significant and
important economic, as well as cultural, returns to Western
The tour will also coincide with the first shipment of North West Shelf gas to China.
The orchestra will have two concerts each in Beijing
and Shanghai, with single concerts
in Hangzhou, Guangzhou,
Shenzhen and Hong Kong. WASO has indicated that these
cities have been chosen because they represent the key cities offering business
development opportunities to Australia. They also reflect Perth's
sister-state relationship with the Zhejiang
Province. In its view arts and
culture have a vital role in developing long lasting bonds between people and
...They help to promote understanding and respect for cultural
differences and are invaluable assets in creating goodwill, which is essential
to the establishment of mutually beneficial trade relations.
WASO's submission identified a number of benefits for
WA broadly broken down into two categories: 'diplomatic' and 'cultural'. Amongst
the diplomatic benefits arising from the tour, WASO stated that it would:
provide a celebratory offering to China in
recognition of the unique and valuable relationship between our two countries;
showcase many of WA's attributes to the Chinese
provide a venue and opportunity for WA government
officials to develop closer relationships with their Chinese counterparts;
provide a context for the celebration of the negotiations
for a proposed FTA, demonstrating the opportunities for culture and tourism;
facilitate meetings of government delegations,
business, organisations, and individuals in an informal and relaxed environment
where hospitality can be offered and relationships built.
Amongst the cultural benefits, WASO claims that the
tour would continue a major cultural exchange program between the two nations,
demonstrate an unprecedented level of arts and business partnership, and could
also be linked into the lead-up events to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
The committee congratulates the WASO on working so
effectively with the various government, business and cultural stakeholders to
arrange the tour, and wishes it every success in 2006. The committee hopes that
events such as this will become a regular occurrence.
Victoria has actively promoted cultural relations
through sister-state links. In October of 2004, as part of celebrations to mark
the 25th anniversary of the sister-state relationship between
Victoria and Jingsu, a tapestry was commissioned from the Victorian Tapestry
Workshop for display in the new Nanjing Library. Announcing the initative,
Premier The Hon Steve Bracks MP stated that it would also 'weave in well with
the sister-institution link between Nanjing Library and the State Library of
The National Library of Australia (NLA) informed the
committee that its Chinese language collection is the largest in Australia,
comprising some 250,000 monographs, 5,100 serial titles, 250 newspaper titles,
10,000 reels of microfilm and 15,000 sheets of microfiche in Chinese, as well
as a number of online resources. The NLA stated that the collection's emphasis
is on modern and contemporary China. In
2004, the NLA celebrated its China collection with a public exhibition entitled
Xanadu: Encounters with China:
The exhibition, based on some 150 items chosen exclusively from
the Library's collections, was viewed by over 23,000 visitors. They were able
to gain a greater understanding of the history of China and its society through
the drawings and photographs depicting all aspects of court and street life
from the 13th century to the eve of World War II in 1939.
The NLA stressed the importance of people-to-people
links in facilitating its relationships with Chinese libraries, such as the
National Library in China,
the National Central Library in Taipei,
and over 50 other Chinese libraries and institutions. Formal delegations,
informal visits and staff exchanges from Chinese library staff form an
important part of the NLA's relationship with China. The NLA also indicated
that it has a cordial relationship with the Embassy of the People's Republic of
China in Canberra. In March 2005, the Embassy presented the NLA with a replica
of a Chinese terracotta warrior that has been placed on display in the Asian
collections reading room.
According to the WA government's submission, Australia
and China are
two of the world's top five sporting nations. Sporting interaction can lead to a
number of positive benefits—social, political, and economic.
General sporting links
The Chinese government has always understood the value
of political and cultural communication through sport. Chey observed that in
the 1970s, when the Chinese Communist Party sought to improve its image
overseas, it embarked upon 'ping pong diplomacy':
Chinese table tennis delegations were dispatched to various
western countries, including Australia, where they received extraordinary
reception—not so much from sports enthusiasts as from the general public...Many
were prepared to accept uncritically the political olive branch offered by the
table tennis delegations without questioning more deeply what China's public
diplomacy objectives might be...the Chinese cultural efforts did succeed in
breaking down some of the barriers between the two societies—so much so that a
cultural 'open door' policy began to emerge in the 1970s, well before its
D'Arcy observed that Australian sport has
gained considerably from interaction with Chinese sports people. Australian
gymnastics, table tennis, volleyball, and badminton have all benefited from the
involvement of Chinese coaches and players.
Similarly, Chinese yachting, rugby union, golf, horse racing, and track and
field have benefited from interaction with Australian sportsmen and women.
Aside from elite sporting interaction, Mr
D'Arcy has identified social sport as an
area where significant advances could be made in the relationship between Australia
and China. He
is of the view that Australia
is in a strong position to significantly contribute to the Chinese government's
programs aimed at increasing the uptake of social sport.
The WA Department of Sport and Recreation also provided
the committee with detail concerning WA's sporting interaction with China,
and the benefits that can arise from sporting interaction including the
promotion of WA as a tourist destination.
For example, in June 2005, Basketball Australia
announced a new four-nations tournament that is part of Basketball Australia's
drive to forge stronger relations with Asian basketballing nations. It is hoped
that the tournament 'will become an annual feature of the international
basketball calendar, with Australia
hosting the event on a rotational basis'.
The 2008 Beijing
The 2008 Olympics provides opportunities for a new
level of cooperation between Australia
and China, and
should serve to enhance considerably the sporting and broader bilateral links
between the two nations. In a speech delivered in China
in 2003, Sydney Olympics CEO, Mr Sandy
International relations is not only about the conduct of
political and economic affairs between Governments and businesses. It must also
be underpinned by the sort of deep international understanding that can only
come from closer and closer relations between people. The Olympic games is the
most successful popular embodiment of internationalism yet invented by human
beings...Because Australia hosted the most recent Summer Games; because we did so
successfully; because there are lessons to be learnt; and because we have
companies, government agencies and individuals with a proven track record,
Australia is in a uniquely good position to help.
In its submission, DCITA provided information on the 2005
MOU between the Australian Sports Commission and China’s
State General Administration of Sport. The MOU identified the key areas of
future cooperation between Australian and Chinese sporting organisations,
coaches, athletes and administrators in the lead up to the 2008 Beijing
Olympics and beyond. They include:
greater cooperation and communication on
international sports issues;
facilitation by both peak bodies of greater
direct links between national sporting organisations in Australia and China;
encouragement of more cooperation and exchange
between researchers in the fields of sport education, science, research and
a joint commitment to working against doping and
violence in sport, including a closer working relationship between the
respective anti-doping bodies in both countries; and
support for cooperation on training of sports
administrators, coaches and athletes.
DCITA also outlined the Cooperation Memorandum between
the Australian Sports Commission and the Beijing Sports Bureau. This agreement outlines
activities of interest for Australia in partnership with China. The Memorandum
proposes a number of mutual activities between the two countries, namely: athlete
training exchange; cooperation and collaboration in applied research projects;
and staff (coach/scientist) exchanges.
In November 2004, the Australian Olympic Committee
also signed an MOU with Chinese Olympic officials to facilitate cooperation in
the lead up to the 2008 Games. This agreement allows for athletic exchanges,
participation in bilateral and multilateral competitions, and exchange of
training expertise. Australia
swimmer, Grant Hackett
It's definitely an advantage to us...there are certain things that
we can learn off the Chinese, even in [the pool] and you know, we've seen how
much in gymnastics and particularly diving, that we've moved forward, and that
was learning from the Chinese.
Some commentators envisage long-term changes taking
place because of the Olympic Games. Dr Jie
Chen was cautiously optimistic about the
positive impact that the Olympics would have on democratisation and Chinese
civil society growth. He claimed
that the growth in government-supported volunteerism in preparation for the
Olympics 'in many unexpected ways justifies activism by the citizens after the
event.' Dr Chen
drew parallels with the 1995 International Women's Conference:
It feels like the 1995 women’s conference in Beijing. Most
Chinese activist women’s organisations were spawned by the event. They did not
exist before the 1995 conference. Some of them were not allowed to continue but
some still went on. So that is a scenario I can predict for the 2008 Olympic
Games. I think overall it is positive. Looking at the Seoul Olympics, they had
a similar impact on civil society in South Korea. The government likes to
pretend that everything is going to be great, exactly like other Olympic Games
in terms of citizen volunteerism or whatever, and after the event everything
will cool down a bit because of political pressure placed on citizen groups.
But then you will see that there have been one or one and a half steps forward.
I am very hopeful.
The committee considers that sport provides an ideal
vehicle for cultural communication between China and Australia. Both nations
are justifiably proud of their sporting achievements, and will grow stronger
through exchange and cooperation.
Getting the message across?
Despite the success of many cultural and sporting
initiatives, there is considerable scope for improvement. Although the work
currently being done by various organisations is contributing to the positive
direction of the bilateral relationship, as Ms Dysart stated:
We should be doing it on
a much bigger scale. We should be sending far more people and putting much more
resources into this people-to-people relationship.
Most organisations active in promoting Australian
culture and sports would like more funding. The ACC, which receives a lot of
applications for general funding, indicated that, with more funding, it would
be able to provide seed funding for many more bilateral activities:
For example, we gave the West Australian Ballet $10,000 in our
last funding round. The total budget for their project, which was to tour La
Boheme through China, was over $200,000. But what can often happen with a small
amount of money is that it can give it a kind of official endorsement and
encourage corporate sponsorship. We are working at that sort of level, but
obviously, if we had more money, we could be much more effective. We reject a
lot of applications.
claimed that the beginning of the new century has not provided an encouraging
environment for the development of Australian cultural relations with Asia,
in general, and China
All too often cultural exchanges have been replaced by exchanges
of trade significance. One reason for this shift is probably because these
exchanges do not impinge on the problem of national identity. Another is that
they suit the materialist spirit of the age, which values all academic and
cultural activities in commercial terms. In keeping with this, trade is now the
dominant theme of bilateral relations with China.
The committee notes that much of the evidence provided
by the Federal government on the promotion of culture and sport in China
has focussed on commercial gain, rather than on the inherent value that such
activities play in fostering general good will and understanding. The committee
would like to see a move away from this emphasis toward a greater recognition
that the prospects for future interaction also depend on filial relationships
and mutual understanding.
The contribution of Chinese-Australian community groups
The committee is aware of the presence of a variety of
Chinese–Australian community organisations that promote the bilateral
relationship, as well as contributing to and culturally enriching Australia.
has been in existence for 96 years, and is the oldest ethnic organisation in Western
Australia. It provides social welfare services,
looking after over 300 seniors from the Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian
ethnic communities. Chung Wah
has developed such a strong reputation for the provision of high-quality
services to the community, that the federal government provides funding for
their support programs:
We are one of the most reputable service providers in Western
Australia. It was the initiative of the Department of
Immigration in Western Australia
to ask us to take over looking after the welfare of the Cambodians. From there
we went on to the Vietnamese. The idea is that Chung Wah has matured as a
Chinese community organisation; it is time that we extend our services to other
Chung Wah takes an active role in promoting traditional
Chinese culture, acts 'as a bridge for new Chinese migrants to embrace
Australian culture so as to integrate with mainstream Australia', and also runs
a weekend school attended by over 1000 Chinese and non-Chinese students. For example Mr Richard Tan,
President of the Chung Wah Association, told the committee that he had led a
delegation to the city of Fuzhou to attend a conference on the voyages of
Admiral Zheng, thought to have visited Australia some 600 years ago. Chung
Wah also has strong links to the Chinese
Government, and its representatives in Australia.
We have a very close relationship with China in terms of
education, cultural links and so on. Our textbooks in the Chinese school are
all donated by the Chinese government.
also has links to the All China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, a
Chinese Government Organised Non-Government Organisation (GONGO), forming a
bridge between the Chinese-Australian community and Chinese migrants that have
returned to China.
Recognising our Chinese–Australian history
The Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of
Australia recognised the 'significant contribution that Chinese immigrants have
made to Australia
from the early gold rush days'. Professor
likewise noted the place of Chinese in Australia's
early development. He told the committee that at the end of the Second World
War there were about 15,000 Australians of Chinese ethnic background. Today
there are roughly 500,000, of whom about 40 per cent can claim to have
relatives in or be linked to the People’s Republic of China.
highlighted the immense and enduring contribution the Chinese Australian community
has made to economic relations, cultural relations and social or
people-to-people relations between Australia
and China. However,
he noted the general lack of awareness in the broader community of the
contribution Chinese Australians have made to this country's progress.
Is not always as widely recognised as perhaps it should be. In
particular, immigrants from the People’s Republic of China...are
highly skilled and educated. They are ideal citizens for a knowledge driven
economy. The question I would pose is: how welcome do they feel, how much do
they feel a part of Australian public life and how widely is their contribution
recognised? Are they recognised as free and equal partners in Australian
He noted that, in addition to being educated about China,
Australian children should also be taught about the important role the Chinese had
in building Australia:
...we need to pay greater attention to our own Chinese Australian
history and to our own Chinese Australian society and the role it plays in
to Asia at the present time, about which very little is
known. The role played in Australia’s
business by social, cultural and business leaders from Australia’s
various Chinese ethnic communities is absolutely instrumental, and very little attention
is paid to it.
there is a sense that we still cling to an old notion of white man goes to Asia
doing business. That is not how it is happening. Elements of that story could
be recast to make Chinese-Australians and, more broadly, Asian-Australians feel
more welcome and more widely recognised for the very important role they play
relations with China
and the region.
considered that the growth of Asian–Australian communities is as important to Australia’s
future as good international relations with Asian communities abroad. Whilst
acknowledging the importance of submissions that consider the international
aspects of improving Australia's
bilateral relations, Professor Fitzgerald
I believe that we will do wonders for our relations with China
by working closely with our Chinese–Australian communities. At the present time
they are the key to the economic and social linkages with China.
To ignore them and imagine that white men in pith helmets are still wandering
around the jungles of Asia dealing with this
relationship is beyond its use-by date. In my view, we have got to embrace and
welcome Asian–Australian communities.
Fitzgerald considered it is also very
important that Australia’s
new Asian–Australian communities are taught that Australian history has always
had a part for Asia. As an example, he suggested that the
achievements of Chinese Australians in the 19th and 20th century should be
It is little known here that China’s
modern commercial revolution in Shanghai
was built by Australian Chinese. The four great department stores on Nanking
Road are all built by Sydney Chinese.
If you visit Shanghai now—I will take you to the commercial heart—you will not
find anybody who is Australian who can tell you, ‘This was built by Sydney
Chinese: the Kwok family, the Chen family, the Lee family and the Ma family.’
Their descendants are still in Australia;
they know that story, but no-one else does.
asserted that there are many other accounts of a similar nature that could be
told about Australia
and its historical relations with China
that have been mediated by our Australian–Chinese communities. He claimed,
however, that in a sense 'they have been rubbed out of the story as well as
rubbed out of the immigration quota.' He stated:
I think if there is a
policy initiative to come out of this, it ought to be to put Asian Australia
back into our history and give it the credit it is due. There are marvellous
stories and accounts to be told which would stand Australia
in very good stead in China
if they were told.
He argued that providing information about the contribution
of Chinese Australians to both the Chinese and Australian communities would
play an important role in building links with new Asian and Chinese Australian
One can go to Shanghai
and learn that Nanking Road—the greatest shopping centre in Asia—was
built by Australian Chinese from Sydney.
You can learn that there but you would not learn it here, and I think that is a
very great pity. Education is one area in which, not by undertaking propaganda
exercises but by simply restoring to our history some of the stories that have
been erased from it, we would make a great contribution to welcoming new
Chinese Australians and Asian Australians into a story that has always had a
place for them, even if people sometimes want to rub it out.
Recognising and appreciating the Chinese community in Australia
Evidence to this inquiry suggests that Australia
may not adequately value the presence of the Chinese–Australian community.
Members of the Chinese–Australian community already have extensive personal
networks back in China
that Australian companies, government agencies and cultural organisations do
not fully appreciate. Ms Valerie
Kelly put the situation simply:
We do not do enough to maintain those links or to see where they
have gone to and how we capture them. A lot of business migrants who have used
Australia are now back in their old countries and we are not doing enough to
capture that...By and large, I have taken time to talk to
Chinese in Australia—such as people selling groceries, or students. There is an
affinity with Australia and Australians that we are not doing enough to tap into.
The committee recommends that the Australian government
embark on a number of initiatives that would give greater recognition to the
contribution made by the Chinese community, from its earliest presence in Australia
to the present day, to Australia's
development. For example, it would be timely for the production of a book that
records such a contribution and also details the achievements of Australians in
Public diplomacy, cultural and sporting interaction, promotes
awareness of China
and, at a broader societal level, mutual understanding. It fosters a greater
awareness of the Chinese–Australian community's contribution to Australia
and encourages greater tolerance and understanding. It builds bridges between
the two countries. The committee believes that the Australian government should
continue to demonstrate its support for public diplomacy including ensuring
that there is adequate funding for the cultural and sporting organisations
actively engaged in establishing and maintaining their links with China.
The committee also considers that the Australia
government could do more to ensure that the contribution of the Chinese–Australian
community to Australia's
development is afforded due recognition. Currently the committee believes that
this is a neglected area.
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