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.
China Matters is an Australian policy institute 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. We achieve this through our China Matters Young Professionals project. We also strive to support young aspiring Australian foreign policy experts through our 40-day Junior Fellowship program.
China Matters hosts regular national meetings and China policy dinners 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 Eighth National Meeting, held at Como House in Melbourne.
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 to manage risk in its relationship with the PRC?’ by Mr Peter Varghese. Other policy briefs include ‘What should Australia do about research collaboration with the PRC?’ by Mr Dirk van der Kley. In June 2019, we published ‘A New China Narrative for Australia’, written by Ms Linda Jakobson. This was the culmination of a six-month process which included several brainstorming sessions with our supporter circle members, an event in Canberra to launch the next-to-final draft of the Narrative, and the soliciting of public commentary online.
In the latest China Matters Explores policy brief, Peter Varghese AO, Chancellor of University of Queensland and former DFAT Secretary, argues that Australia needs to help craft a new “strategic equilibrium” in the Indo-Pacific.
Australia’s interests are best served by engaging the People’s Republic of China (PRC) bilaterally and multilaterally but also by supporting arrangements to constrain the destabilising aspects of its behaviour by working with countries such as the US, Japan and India, as well as Indonesia and South Korea.
Read the brief here.
On 3 July 2020, Linda Jakobson hosted a webinar with Peter Varghese AO, Dennis Richardson AC and Michael Clifton to discuss the latest China Matters policy brief and the principles that should guide Australia’s China policy.
The article by Ms Ellen Whinnett in the 14 June 2020 edition of both The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun contained demonstrable falsehoods and defamatory insinuations about the work of China Matters, and the supporter circle of the organisation.
China Matters does not have an institutional view. It is for this reason that heads of Federal Government Departments have for five years supported its work, believing strongly, as does the Board of Directors of China Matters, in the contest of ideas in public policy and the critical importance of such contest in regard to China. Department heads and other senior public servants have welcomed the diversity of views China Matters brings to its national meetings and briefings, and commended China Matters for including in these meetings representatives of all political parties and factions.
For the full wording of the Letter to the Editor by Mr Kevin McCann AO, Chair of the Board of Directors of China Matters, see here.
Submissions referred to in the articles can be found below.
In an op ed for Australian Financial Review, Michael Clifton writes that Australia should appoint the likes of John Howard or Kim Beazley to start rebuilding bridges with Beijing after the stresses of COVID-19.
Relations are at a low ebb with the People’s Republic of China, and the COVID-19 pandemic offers little prospect of a turning tide anytime soon. Ambassador Cheng Jingye’s implied threat of a Chinese consumer boycott of Australian products marks a new low. Those hoping to steer Australia’s troubled relationship towards less turbulent waters face no easy task.
The impasse must be broken. The appointment of a Special PRC Envoy would signal the Prime Minister’s determination to get relations with China back on track.
To read the op ed, click here.
Michael Clifton is the CEO of China Matters.
China Matters does not have an institutional view; the views expressed here are the author’s.
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 us.