When Australia’s then Prime Minister the Hon. Kevin Rudd launched the Australian Centre on China in the World in 2010, he expressed the hope that it would be ‘a new centre for study, learning and the exchange of ideas and understanding’ about the Chinese world. It was to be a place for scholars from Australia and overseas to work individually and collaboratively, in dialogue with our colleagues in the sinophone world, to produce research of enduring value and integrity.
In the few years of the Centre’s life, these goals have been achieved, and more besides. The Australian Centre on China in the World has become known not just for the excellence of its endeavour but for developing a new style of scholarship on the Chinese world. This new style may be summed up with three keywords: reflexive, democratic, unbounded. We are reflexive, in that we are aware of where our work stands in the 400 year history of western Sinology and the much longer history of the Chinese study of China, as well as understanding our place in an Australia where China becomes ever more present in our lives and imaginations. We are democratic, in our firm belief that research informed by intelligence, linguistic capability, and deep learning must not be directed only to professionals involved in public and academic debates about China. We must also speak to the diverse communities that increasingly demand a better understanding of the cultural, social and economic challenges of China's presence in the world and in our everyday lives. We are unbounded, in that while we understand and respect the distinctions between academic disciplines, we do not allow them to mould or restrict our research. We encourage work that explores topics and approaches that fall between, across, or beyond established categories of knowledge about the Chinese world.
In our research we always bear in mind the people behind the numbers, the individual histories that underlie any collective action, and the lived experience of those working within, or against, the institutions of state and society. This concern with the intrinsic humanity of the people we study is also reflected in the way we relate to each other as a research and teaching community. As a place to learn together, the Australian Centre on China in the World is informal and nurturing, but also rigorous and challenging. By creating an environment in which people work best, the best work will naturally be produced.