Why China Matters

China is important to Australia’s future. It is essential for Australia to get its relationship with the People’s Republic of China right. While public discourse in Australia on China is increasingly lively, it is critical to Australia’s future that it be better-informed. Australians know that the PRC is important to Australia, but many do not have a nuanced understanding of the reasons why nor do they fully appreciate the risks and opportunities involved in relations with the PRC.


Read ‘A New China Narrative for Australia’ here.

Our Goals

China Matters was established to stimulate a realistic and nuanced discussion of the PRC among Australian business, government and the security establishment, and advance sound policy.

The goals of this high-profile and high-impact effort are to expand awareness and understanding, inform public and elite opinions, and recommend solid policy in Australia on the complexities, opportunities, and challenges of Australia’s relationship with the PRC.

This is a discrete and unique effort, different from other China undertakings in Australia in that it is independent, is not tied to any institution, and is focused exclusively from a policy perspective on the rise of the People’s Republic of China and how it matters to Australia.

We also think it is important to engage with people interested in the PRC aged 35 or under who are working in the public or private sector. This is achieved through our China Matters Young Professionals project. We also strive to support young aspiring Australian foreign policy experts through our 40-day internship program.

Our Work

China Matters hosts regular national meetings to bring together a diverse set of senior representatives from government, business and academia. We regularly engage with parliamentary representatives at our China Matters in Parliament forum. Our aim is to formulate recommendations to strengthen Australian policy toward the People’s Republic of China. Check out our Seventh National Meeting, held in the Utzon Room at the Sydney Opera House.

China Matters board directors, advisory council and team members regularly publish commentary in Australian media which can be viewed on our public outreach page. China Matters does not have an institutional view.

We now have our own policy brief publication China Matters Explores. This series focuses on individual tough issues in Australia’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China. Check out our latest edition, ‘What should Australia do about the Belt and Road Initiative?’ by Dirk van der Kley. Previous editions include, ‘Is there a problem with Australia’s China narrative?’, co-authored by board directors, Stephen FitzGerald and Linda Jakobson.


Recent activities, policy briefs and events

img description NARRATIVE

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on 26 June 2019 delivered his first major foreign policy speech since the election. Mr Morrison called for an active Australian foreign policy in a rapidly changing Indo-Pacific. He also reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to further enhancing its relationship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It is now imperative for the prime minister to home in on the specific challenges in this immensely consequential relationship with the PRC.

China Matters is pleased to publish A New China Narrative for Australia. Written as if it was an address by the Prime Minister of Australia, A New China Narrative for Australia provides a clear and comprehensible storyline that explains why Australia must engage deeply with the PRC, despite our likes and dislikes.

This new narrative sets out a framework to formulate foreign policy that protects and advances Australia’s interests.

The narrative is the outcome of a nationwide public debate and consultations with a diverse group of influential Australians from the public service, business and the university sector. Online comments were solicited for one month following the 26 March 2019 release of a draft of the narrative in Canberra. The final version of A New China Narrative for Australia incorporates comments made at the Canberra event as well as feedback from the public.

img description ANNOUNCEMENT

China Matters announced on 27 May 2019 that its Board of Directors has appointed Mr Alistair Nicholas, a corporate and public affairs executive with extensive China business and policy experience, as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Mr Nicholas will commence his role on 1 August.

Founding Director and current CEO, Ms Linda Jakobson, will continue to engage in the strategic work of China Matters and contribute to the public discussion of the People’s Republic of China  through her publications and briefings.  Ms Jakobson will also assume the role of Deputy Chair.

Mr Nicholas’ career covers journalism, government policy, international trade, diplomacy, and senior private sector roles in corporate and public affairs. Mr Nicholas was based in Beijing for 13 years, where he led the government relations and corporate practices of leading global communications consultancy firms. In those roles he provided strategic advice to major multinational corporations about their business operations in China.

For the full media release click here.

For more information on Alistair Nicholas click here.

img description POLICY BRIEF

In the latest China Matters Explores Dirk van der Kley argues the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become indistinguishable from the technology and economic policy of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC). Just as with the PRC’s rise, the region is extracting significant economic benefit in terms of jobs and infrastructure development.

But there are also challenges as Beijing reshapes the technological and economic order in Australia’s neighbourhood. The PRC uses economic leverage and technology to shape the region in ways that are not in Australia’s interests. Beijing suppresses support for decisions from international tribunals, it erodes liberal norms throughout the region and compels acceptance of the PRC’s militarisation of the South China Sea.

Van der Kley argues that in response, Australia needs to do more to shape rules and norms in its neighbourhood. It must also provide economic support to Pacific Island (PI) nations. Canberra should boldly increase working opportunities for Pacific Islanders in Australia. With ASEAN, Australia should focus on leading regional discussions on cyber governance and new technologies.

Dirk van der Kley is Program Director – Policy Research at China Matters.

Our Key Supporters

We are grateful to our supporters for making possible the research, publication, and outreach work of China Matters. We would like to do more. If you share our goals and would like to contribute financial support to our project, please contact Linda Jakobson.

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