Meet the future leaders of Australian and Chinese relations

Emerging leaders from Australia and China are meeting and creating important new networks at the annual Australia-China Youth Dialogue.

While completing his Master's Degree in Banking at Sydney University, William Zhao kept on hearing about the Australia-China Youth Dialogue (ACYD), an annual program supported by the Australia China Council (ACC) that draws together young leaders between the ages of 25 to 40 from Australia and China for several days of networking and discussions.

William's interest in the ACYD then grew stronger through his involvement with the Australia-China Youth Association and the Australia-China Business Council, where he had the opportunity to meet several former ACYD delegates.

'I felt like all of the ACYD delegates I met were really amazing characters and amazing young leaders, that drove me to become a part of this community,' explains William, who became an ACYD delegate himself in 2016.

Born in China, William arrived in Australia after living in London and New York as an exchange student. He now work as a Mergers and Acquisitions Analyst at a boutique corporate advisory and management consulting firm, working between Sydney and Beijing.

Other delegates for the 2016 ACYD included journalists and editors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, educators, surgeons, analysts, business managers, CEO's, and even a former Australian rugby union player, among others. 

Held on an alternating basis between Australia and China over a period of four days, the ACYD brings together 30 Australian and Chinese emerging leaders to discuss the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

'I work in the finance sector so I was most interested to explore more about the financial aspects of the Australian/Chinese relationship during the Dialogue,' says William.

'The sessions were critical and very pragmatic and there were many things that I was able to take away from the talks and apply to my work.' 

During the Hong Kong Dialogue in 2016, William shared a room with Australian delegate, David Bennet, Australia's first Intellectual Property Counsellor to China.

More than just the topics discussed, it is the meeting of people from different cultures and professional backgrounds to establish impactful ongoing friendships where the most unique opportunities inherent in program present themselves.

'We had a session regarding social inclusion and organisation where I met a very fascinating character, a transgendered person of Hong Kong decent, and an Australian citizen, who was among the first people to have their gender marked as 'X' on their passport,' says William.

'This person is now an advocate for transgender rights in Hong Kong and I don't believe I would have had the opportunity to meet such a fascinating person if not for the ACYD.'

The ACYD emerged from an article written by Stephen Fitzgerald, Australia's first ambassador to the People's Republic of China, which brought to light the lack of institutionalised track one and two dialogue between Australia and its largest trading partner. After gaining the support of the ACC, the first Dialogue took place in Beijing and Shanghai in 2010.

Each day during the Dialogue delegates focus on a particular theme. Themes in 2016 included Trade, Diplomacy and Security, Technology, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Urbanisation, and Banking & Finance.

Other activities included a visit to Huawei's Campus at Shenzhen where delegates toured Huawei's Experience Centre, which showcased the company's latest technology including the 5G network, IOT and consumer products. Delegates also learned about Huawei's global expansion plans.

Discussions on day four focused on China's One Belt One Road Initiative, Fintech in the Asia Pacific Region, and Hong Kong's Position as a Financial Hub, and featured high level speakers and an expert moderator to lead the topic.

According to ACYD Executive Director, Jade Little, one of the key long-term benefits for delegates to come from their involvement is their access to a network of talented individuals that can be tapped into at any time.  

'It's not uncommon to see alumni reach out to each other regarding recommendations for experts in a specific area of work or share new and interesting pieces of work that enhances the group's overall understanding of the relationship,' says Jade.

Thus far the ACYD boasts over 200 alumni, and with that number only set to grow, the program stands to play an influential role in shaping the future bilateral relationship between the two nations.

'The ACYD delegates are people who all share incredible personal journeys, this leadership group has driven change in their chosen fields in their early 20s and 30s, and that's quite inspirational,' says William.

'I think any person with an interest in Australian and Chinese relations should apply be a part of the program, and make their contribution to creating meaningful connections between Australia and China.'

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