AustCham Shanghai: An historic moment or two


Business as usual in China includes the occasional historic moment or two, writes AustCham Shanghai Chairman Peter Arkell.

Those of us living in China at this time are really fortunate. It seems that the day to day business is always at a frenzied pace and the sense of unity among the community is providing an added strength to our efforts. For me, this is what the Chamber is all about; keeping us connected with a community that is Australia-China focused that brings a combined strength of purpose.
Of course, AustCham exists for a variety of reasons; my priority is not necessarily the same for another member and it is always important to remind ourselves of the differing needs of our members and for members to remind the Chamber’s management of the things that are important to them. In an earlier column I referred to our “First Eleven” value propositions that are our reminders of the different priorities that members will have from our Chamber.
But I digress. I was reflecting on how fortunate we are to be living in China during these days. I was reminded of this while reading Henry Kissinger’s On China. A book that I highly recommend, that provides a marvellous reflection on China’s ancient and very recent history. It was remarkable in its ability to paint an historic picture of China that seeks to place modern China as part of this wonderfully complex and proud history. It certainly helped me to appreciate the richness as well as the struggles of the past. It is also terrific to have the benefit of Kissinger’s first-person dialogue with every Chinese leader from Mao.
History is not always as momentous as the events witnessed by Kissinger, of course. And our commentators in the media are regularly on the lookout for the next China moment. Regrettably that results in the odd beat-up or two, but the China story is inescapable all the same.
In this edition of Australia China Connections there is a wonderful story by Brett Bayly as he reflected on his visit to China in 1973 as part of the press contingent travelling with Gough Whitlam on the first Australian Prime Ministerial visit to the People’s Republic.

Now that was a momentous bit of history to be witnessing. Brett was my next-door neighbor when I lived in Canberra in the late ‘70s. In those days I had no appreciation for what China would become or that I would be calling Shanghai home in the years to come.

While nothing beats the first occasion, Julia Gillard’s recent Prime Ministerial visit to China had its own milestone moments too. Her announcement of the direct trading of the RMB/AUD was made in Shanghai. About 30 of the Australian community here were invited to breakfast with the Prime Minister immediately prior to that announcement. It was great that she stopped in Shanghai for this major change in the China-Australia economic relationship and the AustCham community that was there to share some of that with her and we, along with the accompanying Ministers and business leaders from Australia, saw a bit of history.
The next day a number from Shanghai joined the Beijing business community in a lunch at which the Prime Minister officially put her stamp of approval on AustCham Greater China; the body that unifies the Shanghai, Beijing, South China and West China AustChams. I reckon that was historic. It was mighty to have the Chairmen of three of those Chambers at the lunch and to see the representative power that can be demonstrated by the AustCham Greater China model.
AustCham West China was not there at the PM’s lunch, because their inauguration was not until the following week in Chengdu. Ambassador Frances Adamson launched the Chamber on April 15, 2013, with the Chairman, Ching Lee, and the board of the new Chamber were presented to the business community in West China along with representatives from AustCham Shanghai and Beijing. From the AustCham point of view, this was really historic. And it probably could not have come about without the momentum and unity of AustCham Greater China.
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