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Centre and member publications

Recently published books, articles and reports

A selection of publications about our activities and members’ research on China. 

2020 Year In Review

2020 Year in Review: Research from a Year of Shared Challenges

In 2020, we faced collective challenges that brought into sharp focus not only a range of health and environmental concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic but also its financial, political and social implications. What is clear is that we need diverse expertise to tackle the big, global issues of today, and that China is likely to remain a key part of that equation, including its solutions. 

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Shades of Green: Notes on China's Eco-civilisation

Shades of Green: Notes on China's Eco-civilisation

Edited by Olivier Krischer and Luigi Tomba

Is China the new champion of environmentalism? Are democratic models becoming obsolete? Is efficiency all we need to tackle this environmental crisis? Believing such questions to be flattening the debate and obscuring as much as they reveal, Shades of Green offers short reflections from the perspectives of 14 young scholars addressing the problem in compelling and original ways. They are exploring issues of language and policy interpretation, the complex nexus of social and environmental justice, case studies in rural revitalisation, precarious urban housing and hygiene impacts of city development, as well as the potential to address spiritual or indigenous questions to ecological challenges in the context of China today. 

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China Studies Centre 2018 Year in Review

2019 Year in Review: Research on the Global Issues in China

In 2019, our focus was on strengthening existing relationships and forging new ones, to better foster multidisciplinary research, support new learning experiences, actively engage industry, and raise the level of public debate.

In January, for example, our inaugural ‘China in the Urban Age’ graduate workshop, on the theme of eco-civilisation, actively sought to connect Sydney with an international cohort of emerging scholars challenging disciplinary divisions to foster new approaches to the pressing urban issues affecting China and much of the world.

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2018 Year in Review: What Do We Talk About When We Talk About China?

The China Studies Centre is the University’s strategic hub to connect local and disciplinary knowledge and help devise University-wide research strategies to best deal with the increasing importance of China in our social and economic future. The Year in Review highlights how the China Studies Centre directly funds top-quality research on China and facilitates collaborative research relationships across the University and with institutions worldwide.

The Centre has vowed to become a ‘China home’ for the diverse community of students who are exploring important issues related to China. This report will look at the important research our staff and students are doing that will make a difference for China, Australia and the wider world.

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Member publications

Demystifying Chinese Investment in Australia 

Published in June 2020 by KPMG and the University of Sydney

Chinese investment in Australia fell 58 percent from A$8.2 billion in 2018 to A$3.5 billion in 2019, according to a new report by KPMG and the University of Sydney.

In regards to bilateral trade between China and Australia  in the 2018-2019 financial year, it was up 21 percent to a record A$235 billion but the number of deals dropped by 43 percent, from 74 to 42.

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The cover of the book Urbanisation edited by Professor Mu Li

Urbanization and Public Health in China

Edited by Professor Mu Li

Published by Imperial College Press, supported by a China Studies Centre grant

Urbanisation has dominated China's development landscape in recent decades, yet the human costs of this economic achievement are largely ignored in commentaries on the subject.

Urbanization and Public Health in China seeks to redress this imbalance by bringing together academics and researchers from across China and Australia to offer fresh perspectives on public health issues resulting from urbanisation. The analyses focus on issues of unequal access to health services by the most vulnerable groups: the elderly and rural-to-urban migrants. The book explores these issues through demographic, epidemiological and environmental change in China over the past three decades and identifies solutions to create a healthier living environment in urban China.

Other countries undergoing similar rapid urbanisation can learn vital lessons from these challenges and solutions. This book provides a comprehensive overview for academics and researchers working on urbanization in developing nations, as well as a reference point for policy makers and public health practitioners.

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The cover of Floating Time

Floating Time: Chinese Prints, 1954-2002 

Edited by Dr Stephen Whiteman

Published by Power Publications, supported by a China Studies Centre grant

Floating Time: Chinese Prints 1954–2002 brings together, for the first time, the University of Sydney Art Collection’s 93 modern and contemporary Chinese prints. One of only three major collections of twentieth-century Chinese prints in Australia, this substantial collection includes national-prize winning prints and works by internationally acclaimed artists, including Zhao Zongzao and Su Xinping.

The half-century represented here reveals not only the development of the powerful woodcut tradition under Mao, but also the rapid expansion of printmaking as artists embraced a broader set of themes and more experimental techniques. Such developments reflect the tumultuous periods in which these works were produced and offer a unique and intimate glimpse into the lives of these fifty artists – a vastly different perspective from the familiar forms of contemporary Chinese art seen in better known international art circuits

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Australians in Shanghai: Race, Rights and Nation in Treaty Port China

By Dr Sophie Loy-Wilson

Published by Routledge, London, UK

In the first half of the twentieth century, a diverse community of Australians settled in Shanghai. There they forged a ‘China trade’, circulating goods, people and ideas across the South China Sea, from Shanghai and Hong Kong to Sydney and Melbourne. This trade has been largely forgotten in contemporary Australia, where future economic ties trump historical memory when it comes to popular perceptions of China. After the First World War, Australians turned to Chinese treaty ports, fleeing poverty and unemployment, while others sought to ‘save’ China through missionary work and socialist ideas. Chinese Australians, disillusioned by Australian racism under the White Australia Policy, arrived to participate in Chinese nation building and ended up forging business empires which survive to this day.

This book follows the life trajectories of these Australians, providing a means by which we can address one of the pervading tensions of race, empire and nation in the twentieth century: the relationship between working-class aspirations for social mobility and the exclusionary and discriminatory practices of white settler societies.

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Uyghur Nation: Reform and Revolution on the Russia-China Frontier

By Dr David Brophy

Published by Harvard University Press

The meeting of the Russian and Qing empires in the nineteenth century had dramatic consequences for Central Asia’s Muslim communities. Along this frontier, a new political space emerged, shaped by competing imperial and spiritual loyalties, cross-border economic and social ties, and the revolutions that engulfed Russia and China in the early twentieth century. David Brophy explores how a community of Central Asian Muslims responded to these historic changes by reinventing themselves as the modern Uyghur nation.

As exiles and émigrés, traders and seasonal laborers, a diverse diaspora of Muslims from China’s northwest province of Xinjiang spread to Russian territory, where they became enmeshed in political and intellectual currents among Russia’s Muslims. From the many national and transnational discourses of identity that circulated in this mixed community, the rhetoric of Uyghur nationhood emerged as a rallying point in the tumult of the Bolshevik Revolution and Russian Civil War. Working both with and against Soviet policy, a shifting alliance of constituencies invoked the idea of a Uyghur nation to secure a place for itself in Soviet Central Asia and to spread the revolution to Xinjiang. Although its existence was contested in the fractious politics of the 1920s, in the 1930s the Uyghur nation achieved official recognition in the Soviet Union and China.

Grounded in a wealth of little-known archives from across Eurasia, Uyghur Nation offers a bottom-up perspective on nation-building in the Soviet Union and China and provides crucial background to the ongoing contest for the history and identity of Xinjiang.

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A Most Enterprising Country: North Korea in the Global Economy

By Associate Professor Justin Hastings

Published by Cornell University Press

North Korea has survived the end of the Cold War, massive famine, numerous regional crises, punishing sanctions, and international stigma. In A Most Enterprising Country, Justin V. Hastings explores the puzzle of how the most politically isolated state in the world nonetheless sustains itself in large part by international trade and integration into the global economy. The world's last Stalinist state is also one of the most enterprising, as Hastings shows through in-depth examinations of North Korea s import and export efforts, with a particular focus on restaurants, the weapons trade, and drug trafficking. Tracing the development of trade networks inside and outside North Korea through the famine of the 1990s and the onset of sanctions in the mid-2000s, Hastings argues that the North Korean state and North Korean citizens have proved pragmatic and adaptable, exploiting market niches and making creative use of brokers and commercial methods to access the global economy.

North Korean trade networks which include private citizens as well as the Kim family and high-ranking elites accept high levels of risk and have become experts at operating in the blurred zones between licit and illicit, state and nonstate, and formal and informal trade. This entrepreneurialism has allowed North Korea to survive; but it has also caused problems for foreign firms investing in the country, emboldens the North Korean state in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and may continue to shape the economy in the future."

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Handbook on Class and Social Stratification in China

Edited by Professor Yingjie Guo

Published by Edward Elgar Publishing

This comprehensive, interdisciplinary handbook illustrates the patterns of class transformation in China since 1949, situating them in their historical context. Presenting detailed case studies of social stratification and class formation in a wide range of settings, the expert contributors provide valuable insights into multiple aspects of China’s economy, polity and society. The Handbook on Class and Social Stratification in China explores largely neglected contemporary topics such as women’s social mobility in relation to marriage and the high school entrance exam as a class sorter, placing it at the forefront of progressive literature.

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Cover of Class Work

Book: Class Work: Vocational Schools and China's Urban Youth

By Dr Terry Woronov

Stanford University Press

Images of Chinese teens with their heads buried in books for hours on end, preparing for high-stakes exams, dominate understandings of Chinese youth in both China and the West. But what about young people who are not on the path to academic success? What happens to youth who fail the state's high-stakes exams? What many — even in China — don't realize is that up to half of the nation's youth are flunked out of the academic education system after 9th grade.

Class Work explores the consequences for youth who have failed these exams, through an examination of two urban vocational schools in Nanjing, China. Through a close look at the students' backgrounds, experiences, the schools they attend, and their trajectories into the workforce, T.E. Woronov explores the value systems in contemporary China that stigmatise youth in urban vocational schools as 'failures', and the political and economic structures that funnel them into working-class futures. She argues that these marginalized students and schools provide a privileged window into the ongoing, complex intersections between the socialist and capitalist modes of production in China today and the rapid transformation of China's cities into post-industrial, service-based economies. This book advances the notion that urban vocational schools are not merely 'holding tanks' for academic failures; instead they are incipient sites for the formation of a new working class.

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Cover of Paradoxes of Post Mao Rural Reform

Paradoxes of Post-Mao Rural Reform: Initial Steps Toward A New Chinese Countryside, 1976-1981

By Emeritus Professor Frederick Teiwes and Warren Sun

Published by Routledge

The decollectivisation of Chinese agriculture in the early post-Mao period is widely recognized as a critical part of the overall reform program. But the political process leading to this outcome is poorly understood. A number of approaches have dominated the existing literature: 1) a power/policy struggle between Hua Guofeng’s alleged neo-Maoists and Deng Xiaoping’s reform coalition; 2) the power of the peasants; and 3) the leading role of provincial reformers. The first has no validity, while second and third must be viewed through more complex lenses.

This study provides a new interpretation challenging conventional wisdom. Its key finding is that a game changer emerged in spring 1980 at the time Deng replaced Hua as CCP leader, but the significant change in policy was not a product of any clash between these two leaders. Instead, Deng endorsed Zhao Ziyang’s policy initiative that shifted emphasis away from Hua’s pro-peasant policy of increased resources to the countryside, to a pro-state policy that reduced the rural burden on national coffers. To replace the financial resources, policy measures including household farming were implemented with considerable provincial variations. The major unexpected production increases in 1982 confirmed the arrival of decollectivization as the template on the ground. The dynamics of this policy change has never been adequately explained.

Paradoxes of Post-Mao Rural Reform offers a deep empirical study of critical developments involving politics from the highest levels in Beijing to China’s villages, and in the process challenges many broader accepted interpretations of the politics of reform. It is essential reading for students and scholars of contemporary Chinese political history.

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