A window to Asia

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INTERVIEW: The announcement of a new Australian center of Asian learning is being seen as a major breakthrough for an Australian corporate sector, ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of the “Asian Century”.

New center offers corporate Australia a window to Asia

People’s Daily/Xinhua

The announcement of a new Australian center of Asian learning, supported by both government and private funding is being seen as a major breakthrough for an Australian corporate sector, ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of the “Asian Century”.

The Australian government, Monday announced major funding for a National Center for Asia Capability which will be run by Asialink in partnership with the University of New South Wales and the private sector.

Australia’s Minister for Trade, Richard Marles MP, announced Monday that the government would commit 35 million Australian dollars (31.5 U.S. dollars) over 10 years to fund the National Center.

Laurie Pearcey, director of China Strategy and Development, and director of Confucius Institute UNSW, told Xinhua that the center would be a watermark in Australia’s goal of generational Asia literacy. “The Rudd government deserves full credit for picking up where the cabinet predecessors of Julia Gillard’s government left off — this center — by combining these three critical Australian learning brands will make a huge difference to corporate Australia’ s capacity to engage effectively with the Asian century.”

The University of Melbourne’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Glyn Davis, AC, said from Canberra”The National Center for Asia Capability is a visionary investment by the Australian government, a global first that will draw Australia fully into the Asian Century”.

The new Center will be a collaborative effort, combining the expertise of government, business and university sectors to build an Asia capable Australian workforce through innovative programs, cutting-edge research and the development of unparalleled regional networks.

Australia has been making the concept of “Asia literacy” a national priority with the release of the Asian Century white paper last year.

Pearcey has positioned the UNSW Confucius Institute as the premier organization dedicated to training the next generation of Asia literate corporate leaders.

He told Xinhua providing cultural IQ and equipping companies with cultural awareness and corporate success through collaboration would be critical. “Providing executives with leadership skills for success in China isn’t walking into a restaurant and ordering a dish of sweet and sour pork, its about understanding the structural changes taking place across China.” “It’s about enlightening corporate Australia of the intersection between the cultural vortex of traditional Chinese culture, commercial culture and political culture and respecting that intersection.”

Asialink has been working for more than two decades to build Asia capability. It set up the taskforce that recommended the National Center for Asia Capability, and we will oversee the establishment of the center.

Australia has been a leading beneficiary of Chinese economic integration, but concerns remain that cultural ties are still lagging behind the economic relationship.

According to a KPMG report released earlier this year, Chinese direct investment into Australia grew 21 percent in 2012 to 11.4 billion U.S. dollars, up from 9.4 billion U.S. dollars.

The head of KPMG’s China practice in Australia, Doug Ferguson, said while mining and resources still dominated Chinese investment in Australia, there were signs of greater diversification toward natural gas, agriculture and property.

“We are starting to see the next wave of Chinese investment in Australia being made by privately owned companies, and this trend will continue under the new investment visa program, which opens the door for high-net wealth Chinese investors,” Ferguson said.

Private Chinese investors completed 26 percent of all deals by number, and 13 per cent by deal value, though State-owned enterprises have historically accounted for about 94 percent of deals by value. “Australia is still a priority destination due to the vast supply of high quality natural resources, stable and reliable institutional systems and clean, green and fresh image for lifestyle. While mining and resources still dominate investments, we’re seeing greater diversification towards LNG, agribusiness, renewable wind energy and real estate,”Doug Ferguson, head of KPMG’s China Practice in Australia, told Xinhua.

Ferguson expects to see continued growth in areas recognized as world’s best practice including engineering and architecture, renewable energy, specialist environmental services and food safety and processing.

According to Pearcey, it will be the quality of executive understanding that could determine the shape and direction of future two-way investment cooperation. “Effectively understand those three premier cultural forces in play today — if corporate Australia can get these ducks in a row then they’ll be successful in China.

This article first appeared in the People’s Daily.