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HDR research on show at leading Chinese university

HDR research on show at leading Chinese university

HDR research addressing some of the hardest issues facing Australia’s government and governments in the Asia-Pacific received significant attention at a PhD forum hosted by one of China’s most prestigious universities in Beijing.

Researchers Peter McDermottBenjamin Freeman and Paul G. Gray were the only presenters from outside China speaking at the ‘State Governance and the New Era: Theory and Method’ Forum hosted by the School of Government of Peking University at its historic Beijing campus during June.

The Forum saw detailed presentations – mostly in Mandarin – by PhD candidates from a number of C9 (the Chinese equivalent of Ivy League) universities, on issues of current interest, including civic participation via social media, climate governance and pollution control, targeted poverty alleviation, and governance innovation in China, Europe and Latin America.

Each presenting candidate’s research was followed by brief but rigorous academic interrogation by a member of Peking University’s faculty. Presenters then defended their work, before general discussion of the topic ensued with audience members, mostly consisting of other PhDs.

At the Peking University School of Government in June 2019: L-R: Paul G. Gray (Deakin University), Ma Wenting (Peking University), Peter McDermott (Deakin University), Benjamiin Freeman (Deakin University).

The three Australian presenters addressed issues of keen interest to audience and hosts. Peter McDermott (PhD candidate, Deakin University) drew on an auto-ethnographic perspective to unpack the history of the Australia-Japan defence and security relationship, and how this strategic relationship is growing much stronger. McDermott also demonstrated how both Australia and Japan are responding in distinctive ways to the emerging interests of the People’s Republic of China.

Within the same session of the Forum, Benjamin Freeman (PhD candidate, Deakin University) explored the idea of Australia both as a ‘neutral’ country and as a United States ally, at a moment in history when China, the US and the region are each coming to terms with a ‘new era’ in geopolitics. The case for a stronger note of ‘neutrality’ within Australian foreign policy grows, Freeman argued.

One of many commemorative stones on Peking University main campus in Beijing.

Earlier in the Forum, Paul G Gray (Masters by Research candidate, Deakin University) outlined key principles in the political theory of Hannah Arendt, as these apply to the growing challenge of government management of refugees and displaced people around the world. Gray argued key points of relevance for governments include Arendt’s understanding of ‘the camp’ and her insights into global people movement.

The ‘State Governance in a New Era’ Forum took place as part of the 120th anniversary celebrations of Peking University, China’s oldest and, arguably, most illustrious higher education institution. Among other claims to fame, the campus library nearby where the Forum took place, is the library where Mao Tse-tung worked as a young man and first read the ideas of Karl Marx.

A panel session featuring PhD candidates from Chinese C9 universities at the ‘State Governance in a New Era: Theory and Methods’ Forum at Peking University

Despite the Mandarin-English language difference, the visitors from Deakin were warmly welcomed by their Chinese hosts, who engaged eagerly in English conversation with them at campus dinners and throughout the Forum. Academic discussants from Peking University switched fluently between English and Mandarin as needed, and the courtesy shown to the Australian visitors was unfailing.

Within this scholarly environment, the Australian and Chinese researchers participating in the Forum uncovered a number of common interest areas, which give good grounds for confidence in important and continuing future dialogue.

Each of the three Deakin University Higher Degree by Research candidates that participated in the Peking University Forum are supervised in their research by the ADI’s Professor Baogang He.


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