CHINA STORY YEARBOOK LAUNCH
AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY
MONDAY, 5 JUNE 2017
Let me start by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet today, recognising ANU’s Centre on China in the World for inviting me to speak here today, and thanking Shirley Leitch, Benjamin Penny, Jane Golley and the expert panellists for their thoughtful words.
When I look around Gerald Szeto’s beautiful China and the World building I am reminded of the explosion of modern architecture in China - or as President Xi Jinping calls them: ‘weird buildings’.
These are dotted across the country. They include the big pants, the space eggs, the big boxer shorts, the giant teapot and an assortment of buildings shaped like pianos, violins, lotus flowers, space caterpillars, doughnuts and mobile phones.
They make Canberra’s Shine Dome, Belconnen owl and Garema Place sheep look almost tame by comparison.
President Xi complained about this increase in ‘weird buildings’ in a speech not that long ago where he said that there are too many ‘big pants’ on the horizon. But funky architecture continues to proliferate, suggesting that even Xi Jinping can’t control everything.
But there are a lot of things that Xi Jinping can control. The latest China Story Yearbook explores many of them. It shows that China’s relationship with control is shifting in ways that are both encouraging and troubling.
The loosening of state control over the Chinese economy and financial system will raise living standards around the world. A loosening of the one-child policy and a tightening of control over pollution is profound and welcome.
But the Yearbook explores troubling trends. Increased control over the judiciary, labour rights activists, internet freedom, accounts of history and the freedom of speech should concern us all.
While China is never boring, it has been a particularly fascinating time to be a China-watcher. Just think of the last week alone. We had the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore where Malcolm Turnbull argued that China had a responsibility ‘to curb the unlawful, reckless and dangerous conduct of North Korea’.
China’s response to the US withdrawal from the Paris climate accord has attracted much attention, with China being quick to forge a stronger partnership with the European Union. Here in Australia, ASIO chief Duncan Lewis has warned Parliament of foreign interference in Australia occurring on ‘an unprecedented scale’, reinforcing the concerns from outgoing Defence Secretary Dennis Richardson.
In these interesting times, policymakers need as much advice and information as possible to navigate an increasingly complex and interconnected environment. Now in its fifth year, the China Story Yearbook has quickly become a seminal reference for Australian policymakers. Its deep analysis of the economic, political and social context of China and its implications for the world makes it priority reading.
It is my pleasure to launch the terrific China Story Yearbook. If you haven’t already taken control of a copy, I encourage you to do so at once!