The new Silk Road

From Sydney to Shanghai – our expanding partnership with China.

The official launch of ACRIAs China looms large on the international stage as one of the world’s most substantial economies, it is timely for Australia to assess its bilateral relationship with this burgeoning superpower.

It is of particular importance to UTS, which has numerous links to China through research and cultural exchange. According to Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice President (International and Advancement) Bill Purcell, UTS will have an important role to play in “building an Asia-literate and language-capable nation that will be able to effectively take up the opportunities provided by the Asian century.”

To delve deeper into this complex bilateral relationship and explore its political, economic and strategic ramifications further, UTS has just opened the Australia China Relations Institute (ACRI), the first think-tank of its kind in the country, dedicated solely to this relationship. Former foreign minister and former NSW premier, Bob Carr, has been appointed as ACRI’s inaugural director. 

The establishment of ACRI was made possible by the generous donations of Chinese philanthropists and entrepreneurs, Xiangmo Huang and Chulong Zhou.

“We share a vision to produce high-quality research that will have worthwhile results for both our countries’ relationships in important business and societal spheres,” said Mr Huang, whose company Yuhu Group is heavily involved in real estate management, energy and agriculture. While China may be much more important to Australia than Australia is to China in economic and strategic terms, our two countries have enjoyed an extensive two-way trading relationship worth over $150 billion in 2013 alone. A free trade agreement between the two countries is currently in discussion.

Chinese students are also the largest cohort of international students in Australian higher education institutions, with 119,000 enrolled last year, accounting for more than 40 per cent. of international students in Australia. Also, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, China is Australia’s second most significant source of tourists, with 709,000 Chinese holidaying here in 2013.

From China’s perspective, Australia is China’s second most important destination for outbound direct investment, just fractionally behind the US, with more than $57 billion of accumulated investment coming into Australia since 2005, according to a recent report on the topic by KPMG.

“ACRI is a cockpit, anchored in UTS, able to look at these questions closely,” Carr says. “At ACRI, we would be predisposed to take a positive look at the relationship and the benefits to both sides. But it will also be about problem solving and confidence building for both parties, to develop the strategic partnership further.”

While ACRI will take a multi-disciplinary approach to research, Carr says they will not shy away from thorny dimensions of the relationship such as human rights. One of his most vital accomplishments in his 18 months as foreign minister was to secure an annual leadership dialogue on this issue between the two countries.

During his decade as premier (from 1995 - 2005), Carr also built a wide-reaching network of business and political contacts within China and in the Australian-Chinese community here.

Joining him in Sydney at the end of the year is ACRI’s deputy director, Professor James Laurenceson, an expert in the Chinese economy, who’ll be coming fresh from a 12-year stint at the University of Queensland.

“Our role will be to illuminate the Australia-China relationship, as it is very poorly understood,” he says. “My main hope is that ACRI will become the main go-to source for comment for government, media and corporates for our unique, niche analysis.”

To this end, ACRI will use UTS’ expertise in data analysis and choice modelling to look at political, economic and social beliefs in both China and Australia, to break down misconceptions about the relationship on both sides. 

ACRI Director, the Hon Bob Carr and the Hon Tanya Plibersek Julie Bishop, Ma Zhaoxu

Chinese technology partners

Hong PolyU and UTS have collaborated since 1993 in teaching and research in applied linguistics, nursing, design engineering and IT – while SHU and UTS established the joint SHU-UTS SILC Business School. SHU and UTS also enjoy shared research interests in design, science, engineering and urban social studies, while SYSU collaborates with UTS on bio medical devices, clinical trials and commercialisation.

These partnerships involve developing extensive research links, student exchanges, fellowships and dual PhDs. UTS has also established joint research centres with other top Chinese universities, including Tsinghua University, SHU, Jiaotong University, and the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences.

One of the ways UTS is building relationships with China is by developing Key Technology Partnerships with five of its top universities; Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), Shanghai University (SHU), Huazong University of Science and Technology (HUST) and Sun-Yat Sen University (SYSU).

Story by Melinda Ham

UTS’ China alumni

Attendees at the 2014 Hong Kong reunionUTS has more than 20,000 alumni scattered across China, and each year UTS hosts overseas graduation ceremonies in Shanghai and Hong Kong, in addition to various alumni reunions.

This year, a record 600 alumni attended events in these cities as well as Beijing, with attendance increasing more than 50 per cent from 2011.

Cheng Lei, presenter of BizAsia on CCTV, spoke candidly at the Beijing event about the challenges journalists face in China, while Geoff Wilson, KPMG Asia Pacific’s chief operating officer, spoke at the Hong Kong reunion about diversity, gender equity and making a difference in the community.

Chinese students at UTS

24-year-old PhD candidate Mingming Sheng left his hometown in Central China less than a year ago to come to UTS. He is one of more than 4,000 Chinese students enrolled in UTS.

“The business faculty have really helped us to be committed to our study,” says Sheng. “I have three supervisors who are experts in my area. This gives me a unique advantage to develop my own expertise and skills.”

Zhibiao Zhong is another Chinese student at UTS, enrolled in a Master of Business in Professional Accounting, who came from Guangzhou to study in Australia.

“UTS is quite famous in China for business courses,” the 30-year-old student says. “Many of my friends had also studied in New Zealand but I preferred to be in the middle of a big city environment.”

His favourite aspect of his MBA is its relevance to real life.

"What I am learning now will be useful to be when I start work in six months or a year’s time."