Special 2015 ACYD video address by Richard McGregor, Financial Times' Washington Bureau Chief

Special 2015 ACYD video address by Richard McGregor, Financial Times' Washington Bureau Chief

Richard McGregor (born 1958) is a journalist, writer and author. He was the chief political correspondent, Japan correspondent and China correspondent for The Australian. He also worked for the International Herald Tribune, the BBC and the Far Eastern Economic Review. He is the former bureau chief for the Financial Times. He has written The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers.

ACYD Founder is Awarded 2015 ANU Young Alumnus of the Year

On Saturday, 28 March, Henry Makeham, the ACYD’s Founder and Chair of the Board, was co-awarded the 2015 Australian National University Young Alumnus of the Year award. 
The Award recognised Henry’s efforts in promoting Australia-China youth relations and public diplomacy via the Australia-China Youth Dialogue, the Australia-China Youth Association, and the Australia-China Young Professionals Initiative.

The benefits of identifying with multiple cultures

Henry Makeham, founder and director of the Australia China Youth Dialogue is a great example of someone who understands and exercises the benefits of having a multi-cultural background in a globalised world. Born in Canberra, Henry also grew up in Japan and New Zealand before moving to Adelaide for high school. He then worked and backpacked throughout the US, Western Europe, North Africa and East Asia for two years before returning to Canberra to attend ANU. Now living in Hong Kong and practicing as a Corporate Lawyer with an international US law firm, we caught up with Henry to learn more about ACYD and why he thinks cross cultural understanding and relationship building are so important to Australia’s development.

Interview by Anna Groot, Advance Asia Director

How did the Australia-China Youth Dialogue come about and what is the objective of the organisation?

There was an article in The Age in late 2009 authored by Stephen Fitzgerald, Australia’s first ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, highlighting the lack of institutionalised track one and two dialogue between Australia and China, our largest trading partner. He observed that Australia had a series of such institutions between New Zealand, the United States, and even Israel, yet there was a blank slate, and real need for, such architecture between Australia and China across the spectrum of the bilateral relationship.

I read the article with interest and decided to take action. I met with a motivated group of (then) undergraduates at the ANU over coffee one afternoon and decided to make a pitch to the Australia China Council at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. To our surprise, we were successful. With DFAT’s support and institutional backing, it made it a lot easier for the ACYD to fundraise the capital we needed to kick-start our first dialogue that was held in Beijing then Shanghai in 2010.

The objective of the organisation is to identify future leaders in Australia-China affairs, network them with each other, then via the global ACYD alumni community, build out an inter-disciplinary community of future business, political, academic and artistic leaders who will, at some stage (if not already), rise to positions of authority and thought leadership across the Australia-China dynamic. Developing a high-powered network of Australia-China savvy leaders can only be to the net benefit of Australia-China relations. Moreover, such a network will only serve to make Australia more competitive against other peer middle power countries seeking access and influence in China.

Aside from your involvement with ACYD, do you see any particular opportunities Australia should be picking up on in terms of deepening its engagement with Asia?

I think there is scope to provide a lot more pastoral care for full-fee paying Asian students studying in Australia, in addition to making it easier for them to gain working visas to intern or remain in Australia after they’ve completed their studies.  International students who have felt cared for, as opposed to exploited and commoditized, are more likely to, over time, act as roaming brand ambassadors for Australia which would create a range of win-win opportunities for Australian national interests.

What are the most important benefits of cross-cultural networks?

The opportunity to see other viewpoints without sensationalised media distortion which tends to grip issues that are multi-faceted and difficult to distil in a brief news grab, is an important benefit of cross-cultural networks. Moreover, cross-cultural networks allow first-mover informational advantages: often there is a lag when events or trends in places such as China are picked up by Western media. Having friends from China or of Chinese heritage that are active China watchers allows me to not only empathise with other perspectives, but also be ahead of the curve with respect to my understanding of events and trends in the region.

Why did you initially decide to move to Hong Kong?

To be close to China and be at the financial epicentre of Asia’s economic rise.  In addition, as Hong Kong is a mature, sophisticated economy, the scope for more rigid and comprehensive training in a developed market with established law firms and clients that have been here for decades was another reason I wanted to start my career in Hong Kong.

What did you most enjoy about living here?

The entrepreneurial spirit of living in Hong Kong and the convenience of travel to so many cultures and landscapes within a few hours flight. The diversity of cultures, both Asian and Western in addition to the beautiful nature reserves and beaches around HK for outdoor fitness are other terrific aspects of living in Hong Kong.

I also enjoy the opportunity to look at the world through new perspectives; gaining an appreciation of different norms, traditions, and ways of doing business is incredibly enriching. If you studied Chinese, like I did, the opportunity to use Chinese in a day-to-day work context, both within and outside the office, adds an extra dimension of challenge and reward to my work.

Which formal networks do you belong to?

I am a member of the AustCham Young Executives Committee in Hong Kong, the Asia Society, the Young China Watchers, the American Australian Association, the Royal Geographical Society in Hong Kong, the Harvard Club of Hong Kong and the ANU Alumni Association.

Do you have a life motto?

A passage from Confucius’ The Analects provides a good roadmap to life of continuous learning:

At 15, I set my heart on learning;

At 30, I took my stand;

At 40, I no longer had doubts;

At 50, I knew the will of the heavens;

At 60, my ear was attuned;

At 70, I follow all the desires of my heart without breaking any rule.

What drew you to Advance?

The fact that Advance is the only organisation seeking to connect Australia’s global diaspora with each other and our links with Australia is a worthwhile mission. No other organisation has this mandate and so, as a member of Australia’s global diaspora, it made sense to get involved with Advance.

What advice would you give other young Australians looking to move to Asia?

Resist the temptation to spend time just with other Australians when abroad.  Do your best to break out of a foreign ghetto existence.

To get the most out of living in Asia, you need a lot of energy and an open mind: there’s so much going on professionally and socially, you need to be active and alert to take advantage of, and participate fully in, the extraordinary array of business deals, networking events and activities taking place all over Hong Kong every day of the week.

You require patience and an open mind to empathise with other cultures and viewpoints, in both the social and business contexts, to earn trust and build respect.

You should also have an enduring curiosity in the region around you – in Asia, the learning curve never stops; you’ve got to be interested in the socio-political-cultural environments that you’re working and living in, to offer informed, sophisticated perspectives.

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Why Australian businesses should go west in China

by Stephen Minas


Recent international travellers may have spotted a large panda dressed in what appears to be a spacesuit peering down at them in their airport terminal, its chest festooned with Chinese and international corporate logos.

‘Half of the Fortune Global 500 are in my hometown’, proclaims the panda. It’s an advertisement for Chengdu, the ancient capital at the heart of western China’s growth story.

The unsubtle message is that its economy has taken off. Western and central China's economic growth rates overtook the eastern provinces in 2005, off a lower base. These inland regions are increasingly on the radar as Australia continues to build ties with China.

Western China's economic emergence follows a succession of sometimes-tumultuous development drives.

In the 1950s, the Communist Youth League sent 'youth volunteer land reclamation teams' to the Qinghai highlands to ‘convert empty lands into good fields’.

In the mid-1960s, amid heightened Sino-Soviet tensions and increasing US involvement in Vietnam, Mao Zedong relocated industrial production, including whole factories, from coastal areas -- vulnerable to attack by the two superpowers -- to China's west.

A large proportion of China's investment until the early seventies was poured into this 'third front', which reached from Gansu in the north down to Yunnan in an attempt to create a 'secure rear base area'.

Subsequently, reform leader Deng Xiaoping’s developmental strategy was explicitly focused on coastal areas. During the eighties and nineties, the coastal region's share of state investment, FDI and GDP grew at the expense of the central and western regions.

In 1996, Jiang Zemin introduced a policy of 'gradually reducing the gap in development between regions'. Chongqing was named a province-level municipality -- equivalent to Beijing and Shanghai -- the following year.

In 2000 the 'great western development' strategy was launched. Policies to boost western development have included fiscal transfers, investment in infrastructure and tax and loan advantages. Rising labour and land costs along China's coast have also prompted businesses to relocate inland.

Beijing's push to build economic ties with Central Asia has been a feature of the 'Go West' effort. China's premier speaks of 'establishing a Silk Road economic belt'.

Events in Urumqi and Kashgar attract traders from across the region. Major pipelines carry oil and gas from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to China, which has invested heavily in Central Asia's resource sector.

In 2010, Chinese companies controlled 23 percent of Kazakhstan's oil output. Increasing economic links between Central Asia and western China are part of a broader trend, with the proportion of Central Asia's trade that takes place with the rest of Asia increasing from 16.3 percent in 2000 to 35.8 percent in 2012.

Economic growth in China's west brought with it calls for increased Australian engagement. A 2009 Lowy Institute report, 'Australia's Diplomatic Deficit', identified a mismatch between Australia's 'growing economic and consular interests' in inland China and the concentration of Australia's diplomats along China's coast. The report recommended new diplomatic missions in Chengdu and Chongqing.

Governments are increasingly moving to support Australian businesses and organisations in western China. In 2012 the Victorian government led by Ted Baillieu (for which I worked at the time) led what was then Australia's largest ever trade mission to China.

During that mission, the government announced that it would open a government business office in Chengdu and that Sichuan Airlines would commence direct flights between Chengdu and Melbourne. Victoria also signed a trade and investment MoU with the government of Sichuan province (population: 80 million).

In 2013, the Rudd Government opened a new consulate general in Chengdu, extending Australia's western China presence beyond Austrade's Chengdu and Kunming offices. During the Abbott Government's recent trade mission to China (which included industry events in Chengdu), the government secured an agreement to establish the Australia-Sichuan Trade and Investment Roundtable.

This proactive approach to the region by government is especially important because Australian businesses in western China will often be operating in less developed locations than the more familiar coastal cities, while contending with variable business conditions.

'China 2030', a joint report of the World Bank and China's State Council, found that productivity in western China was less than half the level of the eastern regions. The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that urbanisation rates in Yunnan, Tibet and Guizhou will continue to lag behind comparatively wealthy coastal provinces.

However, western China's catch-up development also presents opportunities for Australian businesses. ‘China 2030’ identifies 'green development' as a strategy for western China to catch up with coastal provinces without continuing the environmentally disastrous 'clean up later' approach. Australian firms have considerable expertise in fields such as energy efficiency and sustainable urban design with, for example, Melbourne-based architects recently winning a major Chengdu commission ahead of Chinese and international competitors.

The impetus for Australia's deeper engagement with western China goes beyond economics. It’s also about building people-to-people links. Additionally, Western China is a window on how China's leaders see their place in the world.

Much of China's interaction with Central Asia is driven by national security and resource security considerations, including through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The growing Australian interaction with western China is likely to bring additional insights into China's foreign relations.

Classical Chinese literature records that the original 'Journey to the West', though far from straightforward, was ultimately worthwhile. As Australia works to strengthen ties in Asia, growing engagement with western China is similarly an effort worth making.

Stephen Minas is a research associate with the Foreign Policy Centre, London.

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The ACYD welcomes Huawei as an Associate Partner for this year's dialogue!

Huawei - Featured

Huawei stated upon coming on board as an Associate Partner for this year's dialogue that: "Huawei is delighted to sponsor the Australia China Youth Dialogue. The ACYD participants hold the future of the Australia-China relationship in their hands and Huawei support this important program.  Founded in 1987, Huawei is an entirely employee-owned private company and a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider with a vision to enrich life through communication. Through the company’s 150,000 employees and dedication to customer-centric innovation and strong partnerships, Huawei has established telecommunications solutions and services, which have been deployed in over 140 countries, serving more than one-third of the world’s population." For more information about Huawei, please click here.