Australia’s economic future is increasingly tied to China, and ANZSOG’s China Reciprocal Program (CRP) for 2018 has again immersed a group of senior Australian and New Zealand public servants in China’s economy, government and society.
While many government departments are making increased efforts to engage with China, there are still many senior public servants with no first-hand experience of China.
The CRP offers a unique chance to meet with senior Chinese officials, visit key parts of the transforming Chinese economy, and challenge their preconceptions of China.
As well as giving participants behind-the-scenes access to people and places, the tour explores how China’s culture and history influences the economic and political reforms currently in progress.
As one participant said: “I knew nothing of China pre-trip beyond usual media representations. The program gave me a context I didn’t have for understanding how significant China is and will be and what it might mean for Australia.”
The CRP trip packed a lot into 14 days. The group visited five cities chosen to reflect different aspects of China: Beijing, the centre of government; Shanghai, the nation’s commercial hub, Hangzhou and Shenzhen, world leaders in technological innovation; and the historic city of Xi’an.
“Learning through immersion is so much more effective than learning through reading a text on China. Immersion gives a different and deeper understanding,” one participant said.
In Beijing, the group met with Australian and New Zealand diplomats and senior Chinese bureaucrats, industry leaders and commentators .
In the technology hub of Shenzhen the group had access to major Chinese companies, including Tencent ( owners of WeChat), Alibaba and Huawei.
The group saw how technology and AI were opening up new business models in areas from medical diagnostics to green technology.
Throughout the tour, participants were able to talk to innovators and owners of government businesses and learn about potential opportunities for Australia and New Zealand within the Chinese economy.
They learnt from their Chinese counterparts about the country is dealing with social issues and planning for the future, through discussion of issues such as the structure of the Chinese health system, the Belt Road initiative, its response to an ageing population, and future plans for the city of Shanghai.
The group also had discussions with Chinese officials about reforms to the education system aimed at building problem-solving capabilities and improving student welfare and school/life balance.
Participants said that the CRP had given them a better understanding of Chinese thinking and would enable them to engage better with Chinese businesses. They also gained a sense of the tension in China “between government’s role as a controller, and its reliance on social capital and community spirit to implement effective programs”.
Participants also learned from CRP program director and former ANZSOG Dean, Professor Allan Fels, and a range of academics who put the visit into a historical and economic context.
Many of the participants will use their experience to change the way they work in Australia.
“I will be asking deeper questions when engaging with Chinese businesses and seeking to establish relationships with certain firms rather than being so transactional,” one participant said.
Another said they would explore how the technology innovations they had seen in China (such as payment systems and customer service innovations) could be applied in front-line service delivery agencies they worked with in Australia.
The CRP was initiated by ANZSOG in conjunction with the Organisation Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
The Organisation Department occupies a unique role in the hierarchy of the Chinese government – it oversees appointments of all key positions within the administration.
The CRP – the first and only initiative of its kind undertaken by the Chinese Government – and works in conjunction with the reciprocal Chinese Advanced Leadership Program, which sees senior Chinese officials visit Australia and New Zealand.
ANZSOG is committed to building stronger connections between Australia, New Zealand and China, and ensuring that there is a fruitful exchange of ideas between the three countries.
Find out more about the China Reciprocal Program: anzsog.edu.au/crp