Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Julia Gillard offers Beijing university chair By Michael Sainsbury

 Julia Gillard will announce the first chair in Australian studies in a non-English-speaking country today.

                                                                                                                               Picture: AP
Julia Gillard with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday.

 The centre will be established at China's premier tertiary institution, Beijing University.
 Mining giant BHP Billiton contributed $2 million, which will also fund five scholarships to bolster Australian studies at Beijing.
 The Beijing chair will be open to an Australian prominent in any discipline who will hold it for a year at a time. It joins three others in Australian studies at Harvard, Dublin University and London School of Economics.
 Nine Australian universities contributed $25,000 each to the foundation.
 Australian China Council chairman Mark Wainwright said the organisation would be seeking further corporate funding with a view to turning the initial three-year timetable for the chair and scholarships into a permanent endowment.
 There are 30 universities in China offering Australian studies to more than 1000 students.
 "It used to be that students in China just studied Australian literature, but in recent years this has been extended to trade, economics, politics and even areas like sport," Professor Wainwright said. The project brings some balance to the flurry of China studies units and Confucius Institutes that have emerged in Australia in recent years.
 Most controversially, former prime minister Kevin Rudd handed a staggering $53m to his alma mater the Australian National University for the Australian Centre on China in the World.
 BHP's sponsorship of the chair and scholarship program is fresh evidence of the company's changing strategy towards China. For many years, it had an arms-length relationship with China as it battled iron ore pricing.
 But its successful removal of annual price talks and contracts has seen the company begin to re-engage with China on at a government level and to raise its profile in the country for the first time since its sponsorship of the Beijing Olympics three years ago.


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