Faculty of Arts and Education

Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation


Cross-cultural Literacy: China and Australia in the Asian Century

Organised in cooperation by The Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University and the Australian Studies Centre, Renmin University of China


15-17 October 2012

Renmin University of China, Beijing





This year marks the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and China. China, together with the Asian region more generally, is clearly vital to Australia’s future security and prosperity in the ‘Asian century’. While for the past four decades mutual engagement has both deepened and widened beyond recognition, lingering suspicions, deep-seated misunderstanding, and sporadic tensions continue to complicate Sino-Australian relations in the new century.

Why is this so? How can we better understand each other? And how can we minimise mutual misunderstanding? To both examine and help improve cross-cultural literacy between China and Australia, the conference organisers have invited scholars from various disciplines and fields across Australia and China to explore a wide range of intellectual and practical avenues in cross-cultural understanding. It aims to provide a more solid foundation for Australia-China engagement in the ‘Asian Century’, as well as a better understanding of the theoretical, pedagogical, and policy challenges of knowing the other in cross-cultural contexts in general and in Sino-Australian relations in particular. Through discussion and dialogue, the conference will facilitate ongoing collaboration and linkage between Australian and Chinese scholars, students, writers and journalists on this crucial issue.



David WalkerAlfred Deakin Professor of Australian Studies David Walker (Conference Co-convenor)
Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation (CCG), School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University and Visiting Professor, School of Foreign Studies, Renmin University of China, Beijing.

‘The Origins and Troubled History of Asia-Literacy’

‘Asia-literacy’ was introduced into public discourse in 1988 as part of a wider campaign to make Australians more aware of their place in the Asian region. The term forms part of a longer history of endeavours to make Australians more receptive to Asia and less inclined to see themselves as a people with no connection to or interest in Asian nations, peoples and cultures. The paper will examine what was intended by Asia-literacy and ask whether this form of literacy is achievable.

David Walker is Alfred Deakin Professor of Australian Studies at Deakin University. He is a leading cultural historian with a special interest in the history of Australian representations of Asia. His influential book, Anxious Nation: Australia and the Rise of Asia, 1850 to 1939 (UQP, 1999) won the Ernest Scott prize for History in 2001. Anxious Nation has been translated into Chinese and was published by China Renmin University Press in 2009. An Indian edition was published in the same year. A translation into Hindi will appear in October 2012. He is co-editor with Agnieszka Sobocinska of Australia’s Asia: From Yellow Peril to Asian Century, (UWA Press, October 2012). Asian themes also appear in his recent book Not Dark Yet: a personal history (Giramondo publishing, 2011). Professor Walker has extensive experience in the development of Australian Studies programs in the People’s Republic of China, India, Japan and Indonesia. He is a Visiting Professor in the School of Foreign Studies, Renmin University of China, Beijing and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Zhang YongxianProfessor Zhang Yongxian (Conference Co-convenor)
Australian Studies Centre, Renmin University of China

Professor Zhang Yongxian is a member of China-Oceania Friendship Association (Affiliated to Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and China-Australia Education Exchange Consulting Committee, Ministry of Education. As the Director of the Australian Studies Centre at Renmin University of China (RUC), he has organised 11 Australian Culture Week at RUC since 1999, and held four ‘Australian Writers’ Week’ events at RUC since 2008. He established the website of the Australian Studies Centre, RUC in 2010. He also organised the First Australian Studies Forum at RUC in 2011. He has been teaching postgraduate courses at RUC for a decade - History and Development of the English Language; Australian Society and Culture. He is the author or co-author of 15 publications, mostly on Australian culture and language. In 2010, he delivered a paper at the 12th International Australian Studies Conference held at East China Normal University (in cooperation with Shanghai University), Shanghai, China.

Chengxin PanDr Chengxin Pan (Conference Co-convenor)
Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation (CCG) and School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

‘Australia’s China Literacy: A Case for Critical Self-reflection and Pragmatic Knowing’

The rise of China brings with it the imperative of better understanding this emerging global power. While few would claim that knowing China is easy, a major challenge facing the healthy development of China literacy in Australia, contrary to common beliefs, is not primarily the lack of government funding and support, the dearth of China experts, out-dated school curricula, the complexity of Chinese language, or even the inscrutability of China. Rather, it is first and foremost the absence of critical self-reflection on the part of Australia. This paper builds on the premise that we do not see things as they are; we see things as we are. In this sense, how much we could know about China always and already depends to a large extent on how we see ourselves. Yet, in the current China literacy debate, the latter question has rarely been asked, let alone critically examined. Although Australia’s self-identity has been extensively interrogated elsewhere, thus far such questioning has yet to be linked to the challenge of China literacy. This paper will look at this little-examined question, trace how our self-identity imposes certain frames and limits on the way we come to understand China, and discuss how such self-identity can be reconstructed to facilitate a better way of knowing China.

Dr Chengxin Pan is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Deakin University. He was educated at Peking University and the Australian National University, where he received a PhD degree in Political Science and International Relations. He was a visiting scholar at the University of Melbourne and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is a member of the International Studies Association (ISA) and has been on the editorial board of Series in International Relations Classics (World Affairs Press, Beijing) since 2000. His research interests include Chinese foreign policy, international relations of Northeast Asia, critical IR theory and US and Australian foreign policy. He has published in Alternatives, Journal of Chinese Political Science, Journal of Contemporary China, Pacific Review, Political Science, The China Review, Chinese Journal of International Politics (Chinese edition) and a number of edited volumes. He is the author of Knowledge, Desire and Power in Global Politics: Western Representations of China’s Rise (Edward Elgar, 2012, in press).

Christine HalseProfessor Christine Halse
Centre for Research in Education Futures and Innovation (CREFI), Deakin University

‘What Future for Asia-literate Schooling?’

The paradox is that schools are key disciplinary sites for the reproduction of normative socio-cultural values and practices, and deployed by communities, policy-makers and politicians as crucial places for generating new values and cultural regimes of social practice for the nation state.  This dual role of schooling has haunted more than two decades of education policies and programs aimed at creating a teaching workforce and generation of school graduates who will transform Australia into an Asia-literate nation.

This paper directly engages with this paradox by examining the question: What lessons have been learned from 20 years of efforts to build Asia-literate students, teachers and schools in Australia?

This is an important and time-imperative question. From the beginning of 2012, Australia will implement its first national curriculum for the compulsory years of schooling. In the new national curriculum ‘Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia’ and ‘Intercultural Understanding’ are designated mandatory areas of study for all students to be integrated into all other areas of the school curriculum.

This paper seeks to inform this new, national curriculum initiative by scrutinising the nature, effects and debates surrounding Australia’s education policies and programs to develop Asia-literacy through schooling over the last two decades. In tackling this task, I offer a genealogy of Australia’s key Asia-literacy policy initiatives in education, and analyse how and why these national initiatives have played out in particular ways in particular States/Territories, school sectors and schools. The analysis draws on the sizable body of empirical research studies conducted since 1994 that has examined the nature and effects of engaging with Asia literacy initiatives and curriculum for students, teachers and schools.

The experiences of the past 20 years, I argue, demonstrates some of the pragmatic challenges involved in conscripting schools into a national Asia-literacy agenda; and some of the key elements that have facilitated and impeded efforts to re-orient the nation’s cultural and social identity and psyche. In doing so, it also offers generative lessons about what must be done with/by the schooling sector as Australia embarks on a national curriculum agenda to develop inter-culturally sensitive, Asia-literate students, teachers and schools.

Professor Christine Halse holds the Chair of Education at Deakin University. She is a sociologist of education who specializes in curriculum initiatives concerned with social and cultural diversity, including multicultural education and the development of intercultural understanding. She has evaluated numerous programs for the Asia Education Foundation designed to build Asia literate students and teachers, and is currently leading a research team at Deakin University investigating the attributes and behaviours of the ‘Asia-literate’ teacher. She is President of the Australian Association for Research in Education and President-Elect of the Asia-Pacific Education Research Association.

Jing HanDr Jing Han
Chief Subtitler & Head of Subtitling Department, SBS TV AUSTRALIA
School of Humanities and Communications Arts, University of Western Sydney

‘Cross-Cultural Communication and Cultural Mediation: Translating Chinese Films for the Australian Audience’

The 1980s and 1990s saw an increase of the influence in cultural studies on translation and “there has been a shift in translation studies from a linguistic to a cultural orientation” (House 2009). “Translation across cultures” and “cultural proficiency” have become buzz words and translation is now recognised as a form of intercultural communication.

In the meantime, the role of translator has undergone a fundamental change from “walking dictionary”, to communicator specifically addressing the target language audience (Gutt 1993); to negotiator between “the structure of two languages and the encyclopaedias of the two cultures” (Eco 2003); and to cultural mediator facilitating communication and understanding between parties or groups that differ in language and culture. As a cultural mediator, the translator needs to have “bicultural vision” as well as to be a critical reader who is able to make contextual evaluation and intervene in the translation process, feeding in his own knowledge and judgement. A cultural mediator in the translation text must account for what is implicit and absent in the source text. The mediating role involves more than a synchronic transfer of meaning across cultures; it mediates diachronically as well, in multiple historical traditions and settings. Cultural mediation is often made through distortion which functions like “a zoom lens allowing the reader to focus on certain aspects, leaving other aspects in the background” (Katan 2009).

In terms of translation strategies, distortion can mean cultural transposition, explication, explicitation and explanation. The author, an expert in subtitling Chinese films and TV programs for Australian audiences, will use telling examples taken from a variety of Chinese films to analyse the challenges and some most intriguing points in cross-cultural communications. An epoch-making film The Blue Kite (1996) is particularly used to demonstrate a progressive approach in translating Chinese history to the English speaking audience. The film represents a highly unique period in modern Chinese history, covering three major political movements in the 1950s and 1960s: the Hundred Flowers Campaign, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The fact that the film was re-subtitled in 2012 reveals an interesting departure from relying on paraphrasing and replacing original terms, to retaining the colour of the original text and context, which in turn shows a progress in the Australian audience’s literacy of China.

Dr Jing Han came to Australia in 1988 from Beijing Foreign Studies University and received her PhD in English and Australian literatures from the University of Sydney in 1995. She joined the Australian national broadcaster SBS TV in 1996 and is the Chief Subtitler and Head of the Subtitling Department. Dr Han has subtitled more than 200 Chinese films and TV programs for Australian audiences, including Forever Enthralled, Red Cliff, Aftershock, Lust, Caution,  The Assembly, The Curse of Golden Flower, Crazy Racer, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, The Blue Kite etc. Dr Han also teaches translation at University of Western Sydney and has been invited to present frequently at national and international conferences.

Baogang HeProfessor Baogang He
Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation and School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

‘Can Zhengyou Travel beyond China’s National Borders?’

Human beings usually have friends in their lives. Some people have many friends who enjoy talking over beer and coffee but would not share hardship, and a few people may reach the end of their life only to cry out: “O my friends, there is no friend”. Others, however, have friends with whom they share their secrets, meet challenges, share their burdens, and form a life-long bond. In extreme cases, some of them may even die together.

Some friendly relations are featured by material exchange, while others are guided by moral principles. If your friend was involved in serious wrongdoing, what would you do? One response, that might be more appropriate in an individualist culture, would be to simply keep quiet in order to respect your friend’s autonomy and private life. The other response, which might be more appropriate in a more or less communitarian culture, would be to give open advice to your friend and even interfere in your friend’s personal life.

More than two thousand years ago Confucius articulated the moral principle of zhengyou to deal with friendly relations. It has been applied to families and kinship groups, villages, and states. Recently the principle was applied to international relations. In 2008, Kevin Rudd, a fluent speaker of Chinese and then-Prime Minister of Australia, stated that Australia is a zhengyou of China and then used the concept to criticise China. In 2010 he went further in raising it to the level of a diplomatic principle.

Against the backdrop of the revival of Confucianism within China, can Confucian culture be globalised and, in particular, can Confucian culture be rejuvenated to become a useful resource for global culture? Most importantly, does Rudd understand and apply the concept of zhengyou “correctly”? Or is the deliberative “distortion” a part of creative process?  This article will systematically discuss the historical origin and evolution of the idea of zhengyou, in particular how this idea is applied to the international community. It will address competing evaluations of this application, as well as difficulties and problems associated with it. Finally it will raise several questions to be studied further.

Professor Baogang He, PhD (ANU), MA (People's University of China), BA (Hangzhou University, China), is currently Chair in International Studies at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University. Professor He is has published four single-authored books and four co-authored books and numerous international refereed journal articles, book chapters and Chinese publications. He received the Mayer prize from the Australian Political Science Association in 1994 and is the recipient of ARC, Fulbright Commission and Ford Foundation grants. His publications deal with a wide range of issues such as deliberation, participation, citizenship, federalism, multiculturalism, civil society and national identity.

Nicholas JoseProfessor Nicholas Jose
Faculties of Humanities and Social Sciences, the University of Adelaide

‘Creative Knowing: Or, Does Familiarity Breed Contempt?’

‘People-to-people links and culture’ appear almost as an add-on in the terms of reference for the Australian government’s forthcoming White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century, where the emphasis is on ‘opportunities for a significant deepening of our engagement’. The assumption might be that ‘people-to-people links and culture’ are deep enough already, in the case of China, or that they are incidental to Australia’s opportunities in other areas. There has been a sustained regime of largely government funded cultural and educational engagements between Australia and China for 40 years now, and a corresponding expansion of people-to-people links in many directions. The White Paper’s terms of reference raise some questions. Do we know each other better as a result? How do we know how well we know each other? And what does knowing mean? Does it mean getting on and doing things together? Or does it mean understanding and appreciation? Does it mean friendship between those people-to-people?

My paper looks at macro and micro knowing, between nations and between individuals, in the context of what has happened between the People’s Republic of China and Australia over 40 years in the area of cultural interaction. There’s a history of friendship and intimacy between individuals, of inspiration and influence, curiosity and scrutiny, exclusion and suspicion, pragmatic collaboration and imaginative mythmaking. In the process Australia and China have become closely connected, while continuing to view each other critically, from inside and from outside. Artists, writers and cultural translators have explored a range of intercultural possibilities through innovative, speculative, attentive work that has enriched both societies. Names include artists Ian Fairweather and Guan Wei, translators Hu Wenzhong, Bonnie McDougall, Li Yao and Mabel Lee, theatre people Carrillo Gantner and Sha Yexin, writers George Johnston, Pierre Ryckmans, Gao Xingjian, Brian Castro, Ouyang Yu, Gail Jones and Felicity Castagna. Yet the momentum has partly stalled. Why? Does familiarity breed contempt, or indifference? Then the relationship was superficial and narrowly self-interested to begin with, an add-on, as in the White Paper.

Professor Nicholas Jose has written widely on Australian and Asian culture. He has published 7 novels, 2 collections of short stories, a book of essays and 2 works of non-fiction. He taught at Beijing Foreign Studies University and East China Normal University in 1986-87 and was Cultural Counsellor at the Australian Embassy, Beijing, 1987-90. He has been a member of the Writing and Society Research Centre, University of Western Sydney, since 2008. He was general editor of the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature (2009), and Visiting Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University, 2009-11. He is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide.

Douglas KirsnerProfessor Douglas Kirsner
Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation and School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

‘China and Australia: Understanding and Misunderstanding Each Other’

Although relations and understanding between China and Australia have developed greatly over the past 40 years, there is still much room for misapprehension and misalignment of understandings. Literacy about each other lessens misrepresentations and misattributions, which have downward spiraling effects upon relationships. This crucially includes basic assumptions and values and how the other goes about achieving their aims.

The prisms through which we view one another, and the nature of our basic assumptions about the other are foundations for our relationships. Many problems in relationships, whether they are couples or nations, involve misconceptions and misperceptions of one another. These indicate a lack of knowledge and understanding of where the other is ‘coming from’. Moreover, there are often spiraling metaperceptions, misapprehensions of what others think are our attitudes, what we think they think our attitudes are, what they think we think, and so on. Such refractions give birth to misunderstandings, misattributions and misalignments. Are the important metainsights that we have of each other accurate?

Although there are universals of human nature in all our needs for nutrition, safety, security, health, family and career, they play out differently across cultures. While we have similar basic needs as human beings, how we interpret, prioritize and implement them will be different. How we see others’ ways of prioritizing and interpreting them may be different from how they see them. How we understand one another depends on the basic assumptions we make about the ‘other’ as different or the same as ourselves. How we listen to the other is crucial as is how that ‘other’ conceives us. Our knowledge of the other’s view of us may be quite different from their actual view, and vice versa. Such misalignments have consequences.

As a fast developing country that has moved astonishing distances in a short period, China has experienced much turbulence requiring the people to adapt to new and ever-changing contexts. While there is much optimism in growth, stability cannot be taken for granted. With the rising middle class and the free market, this tension between individual advancement and the community creates increasing stress in China. China has an age-old need and value for unity, and threats to unity (especially at its borders), security and stability are priorities as are the interests of the collective and communities that reach beyond the individuals who make them up.

Australia is at a different part of its history, with less anxiety about stability but a history of anxiety in relation to its encounter with its neighbours, especially Asia. In Australia, a vast sparse continent, there is an emphasis on individuality.

This paper begins to explore perceptions and metaperceptions together with the basic assumptions and values made about each country and between them.

Professor Douglas Kirsner, PhD, holds a Personal Chair in Philosophy and Psychoanalytic Studies at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. His research is about trying to understand how individuals, groups, organizations and societies function together, or don’t. He is interested in the history and philosophy of psychoanalysis and in how organizations are systems that are a function of their structure. He has lectured and published widely (including Unfree Associations: Inside Psychoanalytic Institutes, (2009) and The Schizoid World of Jean-Paul Sartre and RD Laing (2003) and in international psychoanalytic journals. He is Associate Editor of Organisational and Social Dynamics and of The International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, and Editorial Advisor to Psychoanalysis and History.

Sophie Loy-WilsonDr Sophie Loy-Wilson
Alfred Deakin Research Institute, Deakin University

‘Commercial Encounters: Excavating Chinese Attitudes towards Australia through a Cultural History of Trade 1920-1939’

This paper follows Australian traders who went to China in the 1920s and 1930s to seek work. By 1932 there were so many Australians in China that the British government asked Prime Minister Joseph Lyons to issue an official warning dissuading Australians from travelling there for employment. Using a variety of Chinese and English-language sources, I argue that the presence and behaviour of Australian traders in China provides a new angle on the development of Chinese anti-colonialism. Much is known about Australian attitudes to Asia in the first half of the twentieth century. Little, however, has been written about how Asian populations viewed Australians. Commercial encounters between Australian traders and their customers in China provide one register through which these viewpoints can be excavated. These commercial encounters allow us to see how commercial exchanges were also cultural exchanges and could lead to trans-colonial knowledge transfers. They also reveal the ways in which economic exchanges contributed to the manufacture of racial categories and cultural difference. Further, following the mobility and financial pathways of Australian traders in China suggests a greater role for geographic and commercial links to Asia in the evolution of Australian modernity.

Ms Sophie Loy-Wilson is a Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute at Deakin University. She is a cultural historian who works on the history of Australia's links with Asia, especially China. Her PhD thesis is titled The Smiling Professions: Salesmanship and Promotional Culture in Australia and China 1920-1939. She is currently working on a cultural history of trade between Australia and Asia in the twentieth century and has been published in History Workshop Journal, History Australia and Media History International.

Henry MakehamMr Henry Makeham
Australia-China Youth Association

Ms Hayley Ward
The University of Melbourne

‘Next generation diplomacy: the importance of youth dialogue in Australia-China relations’

The Australia-China Youth Association Group (ACYA Group) is the principal avenue for youth-to-youth diplomacy between Australia and China, consisting of the Australia-China Youth Association (ACYA), the Australia-China Youth Dialogue (ACYD), the Australia-China Young Professionals Initiative (ACYPI), and the Engaging China Project (ECP). As a leading association of youth diplomacy initiatives ACYA Group presents a case study in international best practice for dynamic cross-cultural diplomacy in the Asian Century.

Hayley Ward

Since 2009, ACYA Group has developed a national membership of around 3000 - and growing - capturing an important demographic of 13-35 year olds ranging from high school students to high-achieving young professionals. In both Australia and China, these young people are emerging leaders in business, academia, sport, culture and the non-for-profit sector. Collectively, the group represents a dynamic, enduring network built on friendship, genuine engagement and meaningful dialogue that will continue to broadly benefit the Australia-China relationship.

This paper examines the unique role of the ACYA Group in broadening and deepening cross-cultural engagement between Australia and China. It highlights the rich possibilities of self-directed youth initiatives in understanding ‘the other’ in Australia-China relations, demonstrating the benefits of fostering long-term, mutually beneficial youth-to-youth relations for enhancing Sino-Australian relations.

The paper will analyse a key benefit of the ACYA group in acting as a platform for experimental new Australia-China cultural engagement activities, allowing entrepreneurial young people the opportunity to see their ideas through to successful implementation. Through a comprehensive analysis of the emergence of ACYA Group, this paper will reveal a dynamic new model for reciprocal, creative, confident and collaborative cross-cultural diplomacy for the Asian Century that has begun to be emulated within Australia and abroad.

Mr Henry Makeham is a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Endeavour Award and has been recognised as a Global Emerging Voices Fellow and a Pacific Forum CSIS Young Leader. He holds double First Class Honours degrees in Law and Asian Studies (Chinese) from The Australian National University (ANU), Canberra. Henry has also studied at Peking University, the Berkeley-Tsinghua Inter-University Program and the East China University of Politics and Law. In August 2012, Henry will commence a Master of Laws (LL.M.) at Harvard Law School.

Henry is the Founder of the Australia-China Youth Dialogue, a Co-Founder and Advisory Board Member of the Australia-China Youth Association (ACYA), the Australia-China Young Professionals Initiative (ACYPI) and the Engaging China Project (ECP). He has served on the Editorial Boards of East Asia Forum and the Federal Law Review. Moreover, Henry has been the National Student Group Leader of the inaugural Australian young leaders delegation invited to China by Premier Wen Jiabao, and worked with the former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Australia, the Hon. Kevin Rudd MP.

Henry’s publications have appeared in China Daily, Hong Kong Law Journal, East Asia Forum, Canberra Times and Australia-China Business INSIGHT. Henry has also engaged in a number of public speaking and media events concerning Australia-China relations and Asia-literacy. These include panellist for Asialink’s Next Generation series, the Asia Education Foundation’s Leading 21st Century Schools Forum with Geraldine Doogue, ABC Radio National’s Australia Talks, Radio Australia’s Connect Asia and SBS World News.

Ms Hayley Ward currently works with the Asia Education Foundation and Asialink at the University of Melbourne. She was the National Communications Director for the Australia-China Youth Association in 2010, and was on the founding organising team for the inaugural Australia-China Youth Dialogue, held in Beijing and Shanghai in the same year.

Hayley has been travelling to China for seven years since graduating from the Queensland University of Technology with a Bachelor of Mass Communications. In 2009, Hayley spent a year in Kunming, Yunnan, working with the Center for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge and Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development.

In 2011, she was selected as an Australian youth representative to attend the Republic of China (Taiwan) Centennial National Celebrations, participating in a variety of international diplomatic events with representatives from 125 countries over two weeks, including an International Peace Day celebration on Kinmen Island.

Agnieszka SobocinskaDr Agnieszka Sobocinska
The National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University

‘Travellers’ tales and Australia’s Chinese ‘literacy’, 1950-1990’

Cross-cultural literacy requires an engagement with narratives and images about the Other. But how are the dominant stories about foreign places and people created, and how are they broadcast? In an age marked by increasing mobility across borders, travel is a particularly important, and often ignored, element. This paper will argue that the changing narratives underpinning Australia’s China ‘literacy’ were partly created through the context of travel and tourism. From the 1950s, a number of Australians travelled to the People’s Republic to report on its social and political development. Their experiences were limited to tightly managed tours that showcased the best of China, and most Australians left China charmed by the people, and optimistic about the improvements brought by communism. The novelty of travel to China meant that their reports attracted broader audiences, and the positive image of China circulated widely. However, this narrative changed dramatically after China began to allow independent tourism from the early 1980s. During the next two decades, China attracted a substantial number of Australian backpackers. In the absence of welcoming tour guides and comfortable hotels, travellers began to construct a very different image of China. The nation’s poverty, poor infrastructure and obstructionist bureaucracy, as well as the rudeness of Chinese people, fed into discussions about what China was ‘really’ like throughout the 1980s; a discussion that shadowed the official warming of relations between Australia and China. Again, this narrative found broader audiences, as both the travel press and mass media enthusiastically reported the ‘truth’ about China.

Personal experience is typically thought of as giving an unproblematic view of the ‘truth’, and a first-person account is imbued with authority. Yet, both accounts of what China was ‘really’ like - a socialist Utopia or a backward and difficult place - were contingent on what tourists happened to see during their visits, and importantly, their emotional responses. Nonetheless, their narratives influenced wider Australian ideas about China. This paper will trace the changing narrative about China to reveal how shaky the discursive foundations of ‘cross-cultural literacy’ can be.

Dr Agnieszka Sobocinska is a Lecturer at the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University. She is building a reputation as an historian of Australian relations to Asia and of travel and tourism. Her publications have received awards from the Australian Historical Association, the History Council of New South Wales, the International Australian Studies Association and the Asian Studies Association of Australia. She is co-editor with David Walker of Australia’s Asia: From Yellow Peril to Asian Century, UWA Press, October 2012.

Lin ZhengDr Lin Zheng
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

‘Society, Sustenance and Production: social narratives in Chinese characters structure’

This is the third part of a large project: Genders, Sustenance and Production - social narratives in Chinese characters structure. This paper will look at the relationship between men and women through the social status and roles of those two different groups of people reflected in Chinese written characters.

Chinese characters have been under continuous development for the last 6,000 years. However, only in the last 3,000 years Chinese has developed as a complete writing symbol system. During the period Chinese society developed from a Slave Society to a Feudal Society.

The Feudal Society covered a span of 2,100 years from the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.) to the Qing Dynasty (1911 A.D.). During this period characters were collected into dictionaries and grew from 9,353, Shuo Wen Jie Zi (100A.D.) to 47,035, Kang Xi Zi Dian (1716 A.D). The latest dictionaries Han Yu Da Zi Dian (1990) contains 56,000 characters and Zhong Hua Zi Hai (1994) includes 87,019  characters. However, the number of Chinese characters of practical value today is between ten and twenty thousand. This development indicates two things: 1) people have improved their ability to interpret the characters and 2) changes in the language over time.

This paper analyses two groups of characters that use gender parts in Concise English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary (OUP Second Edition 1999). In total the dictionary contains 82 characters with the character for female (nu) and 168 with the character for male/ person (ren).

The paper addresses the issue of how Chinese Characters reflect the social status of women and men in different societies (primitive society, slave society and feudal society) and how the meaning of characters have changed, as the societies have changed. Particular attention will be given to the Society, Sustenance and Production as indicated in the characters and the influence on modern society.

Dr Lin Zheng is a Senior Lecturer in Chinese Language and Culture at Deakin University. Her research interests include code-switching among Chinese-Australian bilingual children; teaching Chinese as a second language; and gender and language in China.  Her recent research outputs comprise Code-switching and Teaching Chinese as a Second Language; Teaching Chinese at Universities in Australia: A 15-year teaching pedagogy retrospective; and Miscommunication in International Business Relations: The case of Stern Hu in Australian and Chinese media.



For further information please contact:

Professor David Walker
Deakin University
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Education
221 Burwood Highway,
Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia
Ph: +61 3 924 43793
Email: david.walker@deakin.edu.au

Dr Chengxin Pan
Deakin University
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Education
221 Burwood Highway,
Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia
Ph: +61 3 924 43793
Email: chengxin.pan@deakin.edu.au



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18th September 2012