On 23 April 2010, in his George E Morrison Lecture titled, Australia and China in the World the then Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd, announced the establishment of the Australian Centre on China in the World (Zhonghua quanqiu yanjiu zhongxin 中华全球研究中心／中華全球研究中心, CIW for short in English) at The Australian National University (ANU).
In his lecture Prime Minister Rudd said of the establishment of the Centre:
We must take scholars, experts and policy makers out of the silos of separate academic disciplines and departments. We need to foster a new degree of collaboration and engagement between scholars and practitioners of different backgrounds and expertise. And to do that, I believe we need to establish a new centre for study, learning and the exchange of ideas and understanding. A place where scholars, thinkers and policy specialists can engage in an across-the-board approach that brings history, culture, literature, philosophy and cultural studies perspectives into active engagement with those working on public policy, the environment, social change, economics, trade, foreign policy, defence policy and strategic analysis.
I can think of no better place than the Australian National University to further the sophisticated research and dialogue on China's engagement with Australia, our region and globally.... The Australian Centre on China in the World will enhance the [University's] existing capabilities to create an integrated, world-leading institution for Chinese Studies. The Centre will be a hub for national and international scholars. It will also be linked virtually with other university centres with related expertise both at home and abroad.
The Australian Government's aspiration is to make this centre the pre-eminent global institution for the integrated understanding of contemporary China in all its dimensions - and for the study of contemporary China's regional and global engagement.
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd before delivering the 70th GE Morrison Lecture at ANU, 23 April 2010, with (from left to right): Emeritus Professor Geremie R Barmé, Executive Director of the ANU China Institute Dr Richard Rigby, then ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Chubb, and the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator the Hon Kim Carr.
In recognition of the Centre and its ambitious vision, the Vice-President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping (习近平 / 習近平）, presented a major gift of books during his visit to ANU in late June 2010. The gift to the Centre of over 1,000 works reflects some of its key interests and includes works on Chinese thought, history, literature, society, politics, economy and trade and the environment.
The Centre has been created with the concept of what we call 'New Sinology' (后汉学／後漢學) in mind. As Kevin Rudd put it in his April 2010 Morrison Lecture:
I believe it is time for what the Australian National University's Professor Geremie Barmé has described as a 'New Sinology' (Hou Hanxue).
That is, a Sinology or study of China that is mindful of the positive traditions of exchange and learning with China, from the time of Matteo Ricci in the sixteenth century, through the time of George E Morrison and CP Fitzgerald to the present day. A New Sinology that inherits the positive legacy of understanding and engagement that enlivened so many people who were drawn to the study of China in the past. A Sinology that engages with the Sinosphere and a vibrant and energetic contemporary China - in all its dimensions.
Geremie Barmé has written that a New Sinology advocates "a robust engagement with contemporary China and indeed with the Sinophone world in all of its complexity, be it local, regional or global."
New Sinology is not based on old theories. It is about engaging with a re-emergent China. It says that China should not simply be viewed as a threat. Nor should this New Sinology be based on a reticence towards speaking honestly or critically about today's China, for fear of causing offence.
Instead we seek a new balance.
One that goes beyond old Cold War concepts of fan-Hua (反华 / 反華) or qin-Hua (亲华 / 親華) - that is, of either being anti-China or pro-China - as if we are eternally locked into a binary world. This is about a more sophisticated way of understanding today's China.
A New Sinology capable of opening up new ways of understanding this great and ancient civilisation, and what it might offer again in the future. The challenge for us all is how we move forward to promote a deeper, textured understanding of the China in the twenty-first century. Both a China that encourages us all, as well a China that from time to time causes us to ask ourselves where China is going.