This research theme aims to deepen our understanding of Australia-China relations in a rapidly changing world. During the two centuries since the first 40,000 Chinese arrived on Australian shores, the relationship between the two countries has evolved along a range of dimensions, from the strengthening trade and investment links that have led China to become Australia's major 'engine of growth', to the expanding people-to-people links in migration, education, academia, tourism, culture, politics and policy-making. This evolution has occurred in a vastly different global and regional context from that of forty years ago when diplomatic relations were established.
In a speech prepared for the Australian Centre on China in the World in 2012, Stephen FitzGerald, Australia's first ambassador to the People's Republic of China (1973-76), noted with concern the lack of thinking in a 'deeper, broader, long-term sense' about the Australia-China relationship and the 'absence of stretch in the imagination'. FitzGerald identified the need for Australians to 'imagine a different kind of relationship and a different concept of China' as the 'single biggest dilemma Australia faces in its relations with China'.
CIW's immediate response to this has been to establish this new China-Australia research theme in which such thinking and imaginings can take place.
This research theme will naturally relate to CIW's other research themes, given the multifarious everyday interactions between Australia and China that span text, time and space in both quantifiable and subjective ways. The CIW/CICIR Joint Report on the Bilateral Relationship concluded that: 'To foster a mutually beneficial and sustainable relationship between Australia and China, we need to analyse the history of the relationship, and engage in a comprehensive understanding of it, its current state and its possible trajectories'. The China-Australia research theme is integral to CIW's ongoing endeavour to achieve this goal.