New program to help promote Australia to Chinese students

Image credit: Jamie Kidston/ANU. Chinese dragons during the 2022 Luna New Year celebration at ANU.

A new program funded by the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations (NFACR) and delivered by the Australian Studies Institute at The Australian National University (ANU) will build closer people-to-people ties between Australia and China.

The prestigious three-day intensive study tour in November 2023 will bring to the capital selected Chinese students already studying in Australian universities, giving them unique access to the great institutions of state including the High Court of Australia, Federal Parliament, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Museum, and the National Press Club.

Called the Stephen FitzGerald Scholars Program in honour of Australia's first ambassador to Beijing (then known as Peking) this initiative has been funded through a grant of $350,000 from NFACR.

Academic convenor, Professor Mark Kenny, said it was a "visionary idea" and represented a vote of confidence in the vast and long-running relationship between the peoples of the two nations.

"Chinese international students are a crucial component of Australia's world-class higher-education sector, and this program aims to honour those who excel at their chosen studies and provide them with an even greater knowledge of Australia to take back to their homeland," he said.

"They will leave Australia with a richer and fuller understanding of what makes this country work and that can only help in building trust, and facilitating harmonious and productive relations into the future."

Professor Kenny said students would have a rewarding time while meeting some of the most important people, visiting institutions, and gaining an understanding of parliament and government.

The man after whom the scholarships is named, Dr FitzGerald will address the 2023 intake during the three-day course.

"It's quite an honour, but more than that, it's a mark of the huge benefits that can flow from dialogue, from mutual understanding and respect, and importantly, from the acceptance of key differences between political systems," Dr FitzGerald said.

"While frictions have arisen from time-to-time as is expected, the story of Australia-China relations is one of colossal economic and human benefits on both sides.

"Anything which deepens understanding and strengthens the people-to-people aspect, creates ballast in that bilateral relationship which guards against overreaction to problems which inevitably come to strain bilateral relations periodically."

Selection of the first intake is underway with all of Australia's universities invited to nominate applicants ahead of an academic selection process commencing in August.

Professor Kenny said it was common for other nations to provide similar cultural and political familiarisation programs for journalists, students, academics and even members of parliament, and it made perfect sense for Australia to do so.

"We have such a good story to tell about the robustness of our defining institutions," he said.

The Stephen FitzGerald Scholars Program is supported by the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations. The ANU Australian Studies Institute is proud to be a National Foundation for Australia-China Relations grant recipient.

This article was originally published on ANU Newsroom.