Youth dialogue brings a new age in China-Australia ties

Xinhua, October 7, 2013

As Australia's new prime minister meets China's President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the APEC summit, a grassroots movement intent on seeking deeper understanding between Australian and Chinese youth is winding down after a landmark event in Canberra and Melbourne between Sept. 24 to 29.

Launched only a few years ago, the Australia-China Youth Dialogue (ACYD) saw leading early career Australians and Chinese gather in record numbers to benefit from the rare opportunity of engaging one-on-one with key players from government and industry, across both nations, and in the words of one delegate - distil the shared optimism of the youth of both nations.

"The Australia-China Youth Dialogue is Australia's premier track two early career leaders forum between Australia and China, and in its fourth year brought together 15 Australians and 15 Chinese passionate about advancing the Australia-China relationship," said Fiona Lawrie, ACYD's executive director.

The governor general of Australia set the tone for the dialogue, with an opening reception at the Government House in Canberra. Kim Beazley, Australian ambassador to the United States, Professor The Hon Gareth Evans AC QC, Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Dennis Richardson AO, and Acting Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Gillian Bird are just some of the names that led opening addresses, panel discussions and keynote speeches for delegates to engage in lively discussion on Australia's economic, security, trade and cultural relationship with China.

According to founder and chair of the ACYD Board, Henry Makeham, the ACYD builds frequent and meaningful engagement between young adults in China and Australia who share the common goal of furthering Australia-China relations.

Makeham told Xinhua that one of the key functions of the dialogue was access.

"Young professionals are often the most optimistic, energetic and dynamic actors within bilateral relations, but they're voices and ideas all too often come last when business and government interests are so intense," he said.

"The dialogue gives leaders a platform and youth a voice. Engagement and access is everything when we talk about how to bring the best out of young. We give the relationship the knowledge now, to bring confidence to the leaders of the future."

Makeham, who has himself been a keen student of China- Australian relations, was originally inspired to fill the void while pouring over a 2009 article by Australia's first ambassador to China Stephen Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald has been a vocal advocate for a more institutionalized dialogue between Australia and China through both governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Makeham wanted to enhance Sino-Australian relations by bringing together key people from both sides to forge deeper connections for the future.

Gathering his own team of like-minded and innovative youth from a range of backgrounds, Makeham founded the ACYD, as the charter says, "to promote a more sophisticated cross-cultural understanding among Australian and Chinese youth."

Or in his own words, "to cut through the media-hype, the geo- politicking, the economic fireworks," and get down to " facilitating a genuine understanding of Chinese and Australian culture and society by seeking out and encouraging the future leaders to take a an active role in Australia-China relations."

According to Lawrie, "these delegates will one day be responsible for the ongoing development of the bilateral relationship."

"We have selected these delegates from hundreds of applicants," said Lawrie. "They represent a range of backgrounds: Start up entrepreneurs, hedge fund analysts, graduate school candidates, high level political analysts, fashion experts and scientists to name just a few."

Former Australian ambassador to China Richard Woolcott, says the Australia-China Youth Dialogue has become more than an institution, more than just a forum for ideas.

"The (Australia-China Youth Dialogue) is probably in many ways more important because it's really for a new generation of forward looking young men and women to work for a more stable and peaceful and economically developing Asia-Pacific region." Endi

 Retrieved from