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China Forum

The China Forum is a joint initiative of the East Asia Program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy and the Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW) at the Australian National University.

The China Forum's goal is to bring together academics, government officials, diplomats and business community representatives to discuss in an informal setting developments within China and their impact on Australia and the region.

The China Forum is a continuation in modified form of the China Forum discussion series which the former Lowy Institute Executive Director Dr Michael Wesley hosted in 2010. Either the East Asia Program or CIW hosts a roundtable discussion once a month in either Sydney or Canberra. Other institutions in Australia are also welcome to co-host a China Forum.

For more information please contact Eva O'Dea at EO' or Jasmine Lin at









China Forum Events


Xi's war cabinet: Does he have the political capital to smash vested interest?


The new leadership around Xi Jinping has been in power a year. Have they articulated a clear long term political vision different from their predecessors and do they have the public support to implement this? Will they really be able to reign in the state owned sector and its political patrons in order to restore the moral mandate of the Communist Party without a major internal political battle? Professor Kerry Brown, Executive Director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, led a discussion on China's senior leadership that sought to address these questions. 

Date: 12 November 2013, Lowy Institute for International Policy

Experts: Professor Kerry Brown

Kerry Brown is Professor of Chinese Politics and Director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and Team Leader of the Europe China Research and Advice Network (ECRAN) funded by the European Union. He is also an Associate Fellow of Chatham House, London.  He was previously Head of the Asia Programme at Chatham House, London, and a member of the British Diplomatic Service from 1998 to 2005, serving as First Secretary in the British Embassy in Beijing from 2000-2003 and Head of the Indonesia and East Timor Section from 2003-2005. 

Reassessing China’s rise: Implications for relations with the US and for Asian security


In spite of evidence to the contrary, strategic assessments continue to posit a dramatic "power transition" underway in which a rising China will overtake the United States to become the predominant power in the Asia-Pacific.  Dr. Bates Gill, CEO of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, raised a number of issues to reassess the longer-term prospects for China's future, in particular in comparison to the United States, and discussed the implications of this reassessment for future US-China relations and future stability in the region.

Date:  30 September 2013, Lowy Institute for International Policy

Experts:  Dr. Bates Gill

Dr. Bates Gill commenced as CEO of the US Studies Centre in October 2012 after a five year appointment as the Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. He previously led major China- and Asia-related research programmes at public policy think tanks in Washington, DC (Brookings Institution and Center for Strategic and International Studies) and in Monterey, California (Monterey Institute of International Studies). In 1992-93 he held the Fei Yiming Chair in Comparative Politics at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Chinese and American Studies. In 2013 he was awarded with the Royal Order of the Commander of the Polar Star, the highest medal bestowed upon foreigners by the Swedish monarch, for his services to Sweden.

Sino-Indian relations: Border incursions and diplomacy

Date: 29 August 2013, Lowy Institute for International Policy
Experts: Dr Pradeep Taneja

The China-India relationship has attracted a great deal of attention in India since China’s leadership change was completed in March 2013. First, there was the announcement that Li Keqiang would make India his first foreign destination in his new role as Premier. This was soon followed by reports of a Chinese military incursion on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), casting doubts on the Li visit. Strong diplomatic efforts ensued and eventually paid off as the People’s Liberation Army troops withdrew to their original position, just in time for Li’s visit to India.

The August China Forum featured a discussion with Dr Pradeep Taneja about developments in China-India relations since China’s leadership change.

Dr Pradeep Taneja lectures in Chinese politics, political economy and international relations at the University of Melbourne, where he is also a Fellow of the Australia India Institute (AII). Born and raised in India, he has been in Australia for the past twenty-eight years. Dr Taneja has also lived and worked in various parts of China for a number of years and is a Mandarin speaker. His current research interests focus on the rise of China as a regional and global power, Sino-Indian relations and the international political implications of China’s energy security policy. His books and monographs include China Since 1978 (with Colin Mackerras and Graham Young) and The European Union and China: Interests and Dilemmas (edited with Georg Wiessala and John Wilson). 

China-Australia economic relations in the last decade

Date: 22 July 2013, Australian National University
Experts: Professor Ding Dou

Since the turn of the century, China’s economy has increasingly opened up to the world. Increased economic growth, foreign trade, and inbound and outbound FDI have drastically changed the landscape of world economics.

Australia has been experiencing the pleasures of a mining boom, but with the difficulties of a two-speed economy, has also struggled under this rapid economic growth. Australia aims to prepare itself and embrace the opportunities and challenges this brings through publications such as the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper.

In his talk, Ding Dou endeavored to clarify the dynamics of the rapidly changing economic relationship between China and Australia, and discussed potential ways forward.

Ding Dou is currently Professor in International Political Economy at Peking University’s School of International Studies. He is an Adjunct Professor in Stanford University’s Beijing Program, and Deputy Director of the Australian Studies Centre at Peking University.

Taiwan-Japan Fishing Agreement: Implications for Regional Security?

Date: 16 May 2013, Lowy Institute for International Policy
Experts: Dr Chong-Pin Lin

Dr Chong-Pin Lin of Taiwan’s National Defense University discussed the implications for regional security of the recent landmark fishing agreement between Taiwan and Japan. The agreement defined their respective fishing rights in the East China Sea, including around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands. These islands are administered by Japan, but the governments in Tokyo, Beijing and Taipei all regard the islands as their sovereign territory. The islands are at the centre of heightened tensions between Beijing and Tokyo.

Dr Chong-Pin Lin is Adjunct Professor at the Graduate Institute of Strategic Studies at Taiwan’s National Defense University. He previously served for eight years in the government of the Republic of China, including Deputy Defense Minister and the First Vice Chairman of the ministerial-level Mainland Affairs Council.

Multimedia: The Lowy Institute's East Asia Program Director Linda Jakobson discusses the Taiwan-Japan Fishing Agreement.

In conversation: Japan-Taiwan fishing agreement and the East China Sea — Linda Jakobson from Lowy Institute for International on Vimeo

China and the World After the 18th Party Congress

Date: 15 March 2013, Australian National University
Experts: Dr Bobo Lo

Chinese foreign policy finds itself at a crossroads. It has become evident that the mantras of 'peaceful development', 'a harmonious world' and 'win-win solutions' are no longer sufficient to counteract increasingly negative perceptions of China in many parts of the world. There are serious tensions with neighbours, and talk even of eventual confrontation with the United States. More generally, the narrative of the 'China opportunity' is giving way to a reprise of the 'China threat'. In this unreceptive and often hostile environment, the new Xi Jinping leadership faces huge challenges in advancing China's interests and refashioning its international image.

In his talk, Bobo Lo discussed several questions of particular importance to China's future in the 21st century world. What is the nature of China's relationship to the 'new world disorder' - an international context more fluid and volatile than at any time since the end of the Cold War? What are the main influences shaping Chinese foreign policy today, and how far are core principles, such as the doctrine of 'non-interference', susceptible to change? What does the next decade hold for China's key bilateral relationships, in particular with the United States? And how should Western policy-makers engage with a China that is at once more capable, complex and unpredictable?

China, America and Strategic Soft Balancing

Date: 25 February 2013, Australian National University
Experts: Dr Marc Lanteigne 

Western strategic interests, especially those of the United States, have traditionally dominated foreign relations throughout much of the South Pacific region, giving rise to the popular perception throughout much of the twentieth century that the Pacific was essentially an 'American Lake'. While American diplomacy and strategy has played a prominent role in the area, much regional policy was also shaped by US allies, Australia and New Zealand, particularly in the areas of aid and assistance but also occasionally in security policies. This old order is now being challenged in a variety of ways by the expanded diplomacy of the People's Republic of China, which over the past decade has accelerated its political and economic presence throughout the Pacific.

This engagement has included Chinese nonpartisan aid to regional governments in the form of loans, grants and infrastructure projects, as well as financial and political support for Pacific organisations. Beijing's presence in the region has resulted in concerns in the West about the inevitability of great power competition in the Pacific, especially as the United States seeks to promote its own interests in the region, following many years of detachment. While direct confrontation between great powers in the South Pacific is unlikely, China's presence has led to 'soft balancing', meaning balance of power policies which fall short of military means and instead involve trade, aid and diplomatic engagement. The rise of China, the return of the United States, and regional policy changes in Australia and New Zealand will have considerable effects not only on the South Pacific as a whole, but also on the governance and development of individual states in the region.

Dr Marc Lanteigne is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Political Science and International Relations and Research Director at the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington. 

China and North Korea in the Kim Jong-Un era

Date: 23 November 2012, Australian National University

Experts: Dr Leonid Petrov and Dr Justin Hasting

China is equivocal about North Korea in the Kim Jong-Un era. In security matters, it prioritises North Korea's continued existence (or at least stability) above all else, and is willing to cooperate with North Korea on measures that will solidify stability. This prioritisation comes at the cost of overall leverage over North Korea’s actions and policies, although China continues to use its position to exercise displeasure in smaller ways. At the same time, China’s government and business leaders are divided over what else to do, particularly in the economic sphere. China greatly desires North Korea to follow it along the path of reform and opening up, but Chinese businesses are reluctant to invest in North Korea (despite government prodding), and Chinese government officials are ambivalent about North Korean activities in China itself.

Dr Leonid Petrov is a lecturer in Korean Studies at the University of Sydney.

Dr Justin Hastings is a lecturer in the Department of Government and Internatational Relations at the University of Sydney.

China's rise and the security order in Asia

Date: 7 November 2012, Lowy Institute for International Policy
Experts: Dr Muthiah Alagappa

This China Forum discussed understanding how Asian nations are responding to China's new security role in Asia is a complex question. Dr. Muthiah Alagappa from the Institute of Strategic and International Studies outlined the current transformation of the security order in Asia, looking at how the diverse national interests across the region are being influenced by the changing roles of China and the United States. He explained why realist apporaches to security in Asia are leading to less inter state conflict.

Dr Muthiah Alagappa is the Tun Hussein Ohn Chair at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Kuala Lumpur.

Recent developments in Chinese criminal justice: a study on wrongful convictions in Mainland China

Date: 21 August 2012, Australian National University
Experts: Professor He Jiahong

In this August China Forum Professor He Jiahong provided an overview of the most recent developments that have occurred in the Chinese criminal justice system focusing on the impact of miscarriages of justice on the discourse of legal reforms within China.

Professor He Jiahong is a Professor of Law at Renmin University of China in Beijing.

Chinese Aid and Investment in the Pacific

Date: 27 July 2012, Australian National University
Experts: Ms Annmaree O'Keeffe, Dr Graeme Smith and Dr Philippa Brant

The July China Forum focused on Chinese aid and investment in the Pacific. Lowy Institute research fellow Ms Annmaree O'Keeffe, ANU visiting fellow Dr Graeme Smith and Dr Philippa Brant from the University of Melbourne comprised the panel discussing the opportunities and challenges associated with China as an emerging aid donor in the Pacific.

Annmaree O’Keeffe AM is a research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

Graeme Smith is a postdoctoral fellow in the China Studies Centre, University of Sydney Business School, and head of the China Urban Sustainability Taskforce.

Philippa Brant was recently awarded her PhD at the School of Social and Political Sciences at The University of Melbourne. She is now a Research Associate at the Lowy Institute.

China’s Evolving Views Towards International Intervention

Date: 29 June 2012, Lowy Institute for International Policy
Experts: Mr Yang Razali Kassim and Professor Wanning Sun

The June China Forum focused on China's evolving attitudes towards international intervention in the light of recent events, and the implications for East Asia and international diplomacy.

Yang Razali Kassim is a Senior Fellow with Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

Wanning Sun is professor of Chinese media and cultural studies at the China Research Centre, University of Technology in Sydney.

China's Social Reforms and the Harmonious Society

Date: 18 May 2012, Australian National University
Experts: Professor Yu Keping

The May China Forum saw Professor Yu argued that economic marketization and its social repercussions provided the impetus, and necessary pressure, for the Hu-Wen Administration to initiate social reforms after the transfer of political power in 2002. The accumulation of social problems in China, the aspirations of the leadership to embed a “Scientific Outlook for Development” (kexue fazhanguan) and construct a “Harmonious Society” (hexie shehui), as well as the resultant society-state interactions, will continue to shape the trajectories of China’s social and political transformation.

Yu Keping is Professor and Director of the China Center for Comparative Politics and Economics (CCCPE), and also Professor and Director of the Center for Chinese Government Innovations, Peking University and the Institute of Political Development, Tsinghua University. Professor Yu received his PhD in political science from Peking University in 1988.

China-Burma Relations

Date: 20 April 2012, Lowy Institute for International Policy
Experts: Dr Andrew Selth

The April China Forum focused on the changing China-Burma relationship. The changing political atmosphere in Burma has contributed to creating new directions in the China-Burma relationship but the relationship is still dominated by China’s growing economic might.

Andrew Selth is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute. He has been studying international security issues and Asian affairs for almost 40 years, as a diplomat, strategic intelligence analyst and research scholar.

China-India Relations

Date: Thursday 22 March 2012, Lowy Institute for International Policy
Experts: Professor Amitabh Mattoo and Dr Jingdong Yuan

The March China Forum focused on the evolving China-India relationship. The two emerging giants of the Indo-Pacific age will play a large role in dictating the future of the global economic and security landscape, but the prospects for success hinge on whether the two emerging superpowers can foster a robust bilateral relationship.

Amitabh Mattoo is the inaugural Director of the Australia India Institute and Professor of International Relations at the University of Melbourne. He is concurrently Professor of Disarmament Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Jingdong Yuan is an associate professor and Acting Director at the Centre for International Security Studies, University of Sydney. He is the co-author of China and India: Cooperation or Conflict? (Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003).

Chinese Exceptionalism in the Intellectual World of China's Foreign Policy

Date: 21 February 2012, Australian National University 
Experts: Dr Feng Zhang

The February China Forum looked at exceptionalism in China’s foreign policy. Although exceptionalism is an important dimension of China's foreign policy, it has not been a subject of serious scholarly research. This forum explained how exceptionalism does not determine policy, but by being an essential part of the worldview of the Chinese government and many intellectuals, it can become an important source for policy ideas. It can be further seen as a normative theory for China's foreign policy, and is one of the six major schools competing for ideational influence in China's foreign policy formation.

Feng Zhang is lecturer of the Politics and International Studies Programme, at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at Murdoch University.

Plotting the course of EU-China relations after the Great Recession: A view from Italy

Date: 24 October 2011, Australian National University
Experts: Dr Giovanni B Andornino

China's relations with Europe have evolved markedly since the Global Financial Crisis, but not quite in the directions that had been anticipated. While the newly established European External Action Service struggles to produce a coherent strategy towards the EU's strategic partners, China's leaders appear to be focussing on deepening bilateral relations with single European countries through growing trade and investment.

Giovanni B Andornino is an Associate of the China Research Centre, University of Technology, Sydney and a lecturer in East Asian international relations at University of Turin, Italy.

Two generations of North Korea's leaders and their relations with China

Date: 28 September 2011, Lowy Institute for International Policy
Experts: Ms Wuna Reilly

This China Forum focused on the evolving nature of the bilateral relationship between China and North Korea by looking at the different relationships North Korea’s leaders have had with China. The Forum also touched on the likely future direction of a North Korean regime facing internal instability and the challenges of managing the shared border with China.

Wuna Reilly lived and worked in Dalian, China from 2001-2010, representing the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). She has visited North Korea over twenty-five times since 2001, and is currently studying Social Policy and Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

China's Antarctic Strategy and what it tells us about Chinese Foreign Policy

Date: 22 August 2011, Lowy Institute for International Policy
Experts: Dr Ann-Marie Brady

China seeks a more active involvement in Antarctic and Arctic governance in keeping with its growing polar interests. In the last five years China has invested heavily in polar affairs. This talk examined China's Antarctic strategy as a framework to better understand Beijing's global ambitions and the geopolitics which help to underpin it.

Ann-Marie Brady is Associate Professor, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Canterbury (New Zealand).