The study of China has been a key component of the original vision of the ANU, which was established by the Commonwealth government in 1946 and included a Research School of Pacific Studies (later, the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, RSPAS). A separate School of Oriental Languages was established in 1952. The ANU holds the distinction of hosting the annual G.E. Morrison Lecture on Chinese Ethnology, one of the world’s oldest public lectures on China. Begun in 1932, it lapsed during the Second World War. Re-founded in 1948, the Morrison Lecture has been delivered annually ever since.
Many of the world’s finest scholars of China have worked in the ANU’s Chinese Studies, including C.P. FitzGerald (1950–67), as Lecturer, Reader, and then Professor of Chinese Studies; Hans Bielenstein (1952-61), who established the School of Oriental Languages; and Goran Malmqvist (1958–65). The 1960s saw the appointment of three major figures: Liu Tsun-yan (1962–82), Professor and Head of Department from 1966 onwards; Igor de Rachewiltz (1965–1994), a Fellow in the Department of Far Eastern History in 1965 retiring as Senior Fellow in 1994; and Wang Gungwu (1968–1986), Professor and Head of the Department of Far Eastern History and later Director of the Research School of Pacific Studies. Pierre Ryckmans taught and researched at the ANU from 1970-87.
During the 1990s and 2000s, the ANU continued to build its reputation for housing some of the world’s most eminent Sinologists, many of whom were trained by the previous generation of scholars. One of Ryckman’s students, Geremie Barmé received his Bachelor’s and PhD degrees from ANU, taking up a position as Research Fellow in RSPAS in 1989, and ultimately becoming Founding Director of the Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW) (2010–2015). John Makeham, another student of Ryckman’s, joined the China and Korea Centre in the Faculty of Asian Studies in 2006 and went on to become Professor of Chinese Studies in the School of Culture History and Language (CHL), through to 2016. John Minford completed his PhD at ANU under Liu Tsun-Yan, and was appointed as Professor of Chinese Studies in CHL in 2006, where he served through to his retirement to 2016.
Two other world-renowned ANU China scholars are Jonathan Unger and Anita Chan, both based at ANU since 1987 — originally in the Contemporary China Centre, which merged with the Department of Political and Social change in 1998, now in the Coral Bell School of Asia-Pacific Affairs. Unger and Chan have edited The China Journal (consistently among the best Area Studies journals in the world) for over two decades, from 1987 to 2004 and again since 2014. From its founding in 1978 as The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, the journal has been edited by ANU China scholars, beginning with Stephen Fitzgerald, and later by Andrew Kipnis and Luigi Tomba between 2005 and 2014. In 2012, the University of Chicago Press began publishing The China Journal, but its ownership remains with ANU.
The Joseph R. Levenson Prize, awarded each year for the two best English-language books on pre-1900 and post-1900 China, is one measure of the strength of ANU’s China scholarship: among the recipients of this prestigious award in place since 1987 have been Geremie Barmé (2004), John Makeham (2005), Luigi Tomba (formerly Associate Director, CIW and now Director of the Chinese Studies Centre at the University of Sydney) (2016) and Christopher Rea (former Post-doctoral fellow at CIW and now at the University of British Columbia) (2017).
The ANU has produced many of Australia’s outstanding figures in Chinese Studies and in the history of Australia’s relations with China. Stephen Fitzgerald, who completed his PhD in 1969, and who was a research fellow in RSPAS, became Australia’s first ambassador to the PRC in 1973. Kevin Rudd who graduated with a BA (Asian Studies) (Hons) in 1981 was Australia’s Prime Minister from 2007–2010 and again in 2013. It was during his first period as Prime Minister that he conceived the idea that became the Australian Centre on China in the World.
The China Institute
The China Institute (CI) was established in 2008 to provide a comprehensive umbrella covering all ANU scholars whose work is focussed exclusively, or in considerable part, on China. The original plan was for CI to underpin a bid for a China Studies Centre of Excellence at the ANU. It was also designed to be a single point of contact for bodies external to the ANU, including the Federal Government, as well as other scholarly institutions, business, and media, and to provide advice on the ANU’s various China relationships. Richard Rigby, an ANU Alumnus in History with a PhD on the May 30 Movement, and a highly distinguished diplomat (serving in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1975–2001) was duly appointed. The Institute was centrally funded, including the Director’s salary at senior Professor level, plus a separate annual budget of $250,000. This was used in part to pay a full-time administrative assistant, and to cover conference and travel costs. Most of the budget went to fund a number of PhD scholarships. With the creation of CIW in 2010 (replacing the original Centre of Excellence idea), a number of CI functions, in particular the PhD program, were taken over by CIW. The CI Director also became an Associate Director of CIW. The CI continued to function as a neutral body covering CIW, Crawford, Bell and CHL (as well as China academics external to CAP). In 2018, following the retirement of Professor Rigby and the reorganisation of CIW reflecting the recommendations of the external review, the remaining functions of the China Institute were taken over by CIW and the Institute ceased to exist as a discrete administrative unit.