See also Sirdan’s birthday party — Rosebery.
Sunday dinner rather than Sunday lunch at M’s yesterday.
There were in fact three guests of honour. Nicholas Jose I mentioned here. Yes, we did talk about the new Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature. No, I can’t say what was said because any detail is embargoed until the official launch later this week, but I can tell you it is big (around 1,500 pages) and anyone interested in Australian Literature will want one. There may be some surprises.
The second guest was Claire Roberts.
Claire Roberts is Senior Curator Asian Arts and Design, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney and a Research Fellow with Geremie Barmé’s Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship project at The Australian National University…
Claire is a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University for 2009-10.
She has a Master of Arts in Chinese language and art history from the University of Melbourne and a PhD in Chinese history from The Australian National University.
Nick and Claire are both about to go to Harvard for a year. That is why M had the gathering.
The third guest I shall call M2. He works in Thailand with refugees but may soon be going to Africa or the USA. He was briefly in Australia because of family matters. He is an old friend of M, so M took the opportunity for us to catch up. In one of those small world moments I discovered he met my ex-student Evan Ruth in Peshawar in 2001.
There were several other friends there, and of course Sirdan.
Being at M’s waiting for his new water heater, I haven’t had time to write the deep and meaningful post I planned. 😉
Instead, reflect on what this tells you about cultural adaptation in our wonderfully cultural plural country Australia:
M grew up in Shanghai. See also Memorabilia 20: M and William Yang.
Sirdan and Simon
View from Simon’s verandah
M also joined us. He and Simon engaged in vigorous but mutually enjoyable cross-cultural debate.
… and M was once thought to be a Chinese spy.
Back in 1990 when I first met M, then very recently arrived in Australia, I was living in Paddington at PK’s place – and a nice place it was too. The first morning M appeared at breakfast PK was quite nonplussed – being of Lithuanian background he had fairly strong Cold War views in some respects, though not in others. He did indeed suggest soon after that M may be a Chinese spy. He later changed his mind and may even deny the story today. 😉
No doubt among the very large influx of Chinese students at that post-Tiananmen time there would have been some spies, mostly there to monitor the other students. Chinese were used to being monitored. M solved the problem back home in China by joining the neighbourhood spooks – hiding in plain sight, you could say. The neighbourhood committee of spooks also had a benign role; as well as reporting suspicious activity they were agents too of social welfare. M claimed he was particularly lax on the reporting side, especially given his own association with quite a few westerners.
My students at the language college I then worked in more or less assumed someone could be a spy, or “a boss” as they tended to say, and sussed one another out before they started opening up about certain topics.
About a decade later I was offered a free trip to Shanghai by the parents of one of my SBHS students – and not to influence me, as it was offered after the exams. As M said, they were just being Chinese and were grateful I had helped their son. I found a face-saving way of refusing the gift.
Where I tutor in Chinatown there is a prominent display on the wall of photos of the principals in the company with leading pollies, including Mr Ruddock. This is part of the Chinese way of business – establishing your connections or guanxi.*
“Guanxi” literally means "relationships", stands for any type of relationship. In the Chinese business world, however, it is also understood as the network of relationships among various parties that cooperate together and support one another. The Chinese businessmen mentality is very much one of "You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours." In essence, this boils down to exchanging favors, which are expected to be done regularly and voluntarily. Therefore, it is an important concept to understand if one is to function effectively in Chinese society.
The importance of "Guanxi"
Regardless of business experiences in ones home country, in China it is the right "Guanxi" that makes all the difference in ensuring that business will be successful. By getting the right "Guanxi", the organization minimizes the risks, frustrations, and disappointments when doing business in China. Often it is acquiring the right "Guanxi" with the relevant authorities that will determine the competitive standing of an organization in the long run in China. And moreover, the inevitable risks, barriers, and set-ups you’ll encounter in China will be minimized when you have the right “Guanxi” network working for you. That is why the correct "Guanxi" is so vital to any successful business strategy in China.
Although developing and nurturing the "Guanxi" in China is very demanding on time and resources, the time and money necessary to establish a strong network is well worth the investment. What your business could get in return from the favors for your partners are often more much more valuable, especially in the long run, and when you’re in need. Even domestic businesses in China establish wide networks with their suppliers, retailers, banks, and local government officials. It is very common for individuals of an organization to visit the residence of their acquaintances from other organizations, bringing gifts (such as wine, cigarettes, etc.). While this practice may seem intrusive, as you spend more time learning the Chinese culture, it will become easier to understand and take part in this practice that is so central to successful Chinese commercial activity…
We should keep this in mind as we contemplate the Joel Fitzgibbon affair and the activities of Ms Liu. Still, the narrative is very much, and not entirely wrongly, taking what I may call the PK route. See Greg Sheridan in today’s Australian.
NO nation makes a greater espionage effort directed at Australian military and commercial technology than does China.
It was because of China’s massively increased espionage activities in recent years that in 2004 the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation set up a new counter-espionage unit.
But the problems China poses for a country such as Australia in the security and espionage field extend far beyond what might be regarded as traditional espionage.
Beijing has the most unified and co-ordinated sense of national power of any big nation on Earth. Modern China is not a democracy, but it is a very effectively functioning modern state.
It has a highly competent bureaucracy that seeks to penetrate all sectors of Chinese society and serve what the ruling Communist Party regards as the broader national interest. This includes monitoring, and where possible influencing, Chinese business people and students in their activities overseas.
This is a highly elusive matter, extremely difficult to quantify.
The overwhelming majority of people of Chinese ethnic background living in Western societies such as Australia or the US have no relationship with the Chinese state.
And most of those who do have any relationship with the Chinese state have an entirely wholesome one, such as doing business with the Government or promoting cultural exchange.
But the Chinese Government seeks to use every resource it can to gain information and to exercise power. That includes, on the testimony of Chinese defectors and Western intelligence agencies, often using business people and students as agents where it can recruit them…
He isn’t entirely wrong, far from it in fact, and does at least qualify what he says; but the framing of what he says does tend towards suspicion of Fitzgibbon and Liu, and Fitzgibbon must have been especially dense not to have declared those two trips.
And of course they spy, we gather intelligence – but that is another matter.
Back in the mid 90s I had the opportunity to meet the former Minister of Culture Wang Meng who was visiting from Beijing. He was at that stage on the outer, as he had publicly refused to congratulate the troops after Tiananmen. He still had plenty of guanxi though, apparently. After all, he had been able to come to Sydney. I was interested because I had read some of his stories (in English of course) and they were rather good. M was not so interested and didn’t go, saying he simply didn’t trust anyone in a high position.
See also Australia China Connections.
* Helen Liu sure gets around.
Kind of relevant… See Strange Maps: 368 – The World As Seen From Chang’an Street.
Over on the photoblog I mention it was 39C today – not what the news says, but that’s what it was out of the wind and in the sun on M’s balcony at noon. I was doing a brief house-sit, for reasons I won’t bother with here… But you can see one of his plants.
It was at least cool inside, and it did keep me away from the computer most of the day. 😉 (Today’s other posts went up via automatic pilot just after midnight last night.) Called at The Mine too.
No. Not too close… Photographing school boys is a no-no.
Speaking of no longer school boys, English/ESL scored a visit via my grand-nephew’s (right) MySpace blog. He’d written last year (and I hadn’t seen this before):
With a new school year set to start today, I just thought that I should spread a little bit of cheer in the form of information. Yay!
HSC is a bitch, as we all know, and English is a subject everyone does, and it is a pain in the ass right across all levels. I, however have found a website that takes a little bit of the strain off the extensive English workload.
This website, hosted by former English HT of Sydney Boys HS (along with several other High Schools and Universities) and my Great Uncle…was one of the best resources I had when I was studying HSC English Advanced. But not only does this website cover English Advanced curricula, but ranges from ESL, English Standard, and even to Extension, and includes tips as to how to write proper essays, and guidlines on how to stick to answering the question.
I rate this website to anyone studying the HSC this year as it saved me a few times last year.
So Check it out!
Maybe it will save your HSC too…
No, I’m not linking him, but I was also pleased to read (and he is a Shire boy) a really impassioned statement on racism.
…I understand racism still exists. It is appalling that in today Australia, that barriers still exist. I for one am NOT a racist. However, I am an Australian. My heritage is that of English, Scottish, Mauritian, Aboriginal and a bunch of others. I have cousins of Malaysian descent. I was born in Australia and live my life as an Australian. I do not mingle in the business of others, and I certainly do not take offense nor exhibit prejudice to the heritage that of my own nor other around me.
I do, however, take offense to others who label me as a racist, BECAUSE I am what is ignorantly labelled as White Australian. It is an ugly term to be thrown around. My love for who I am and where I live and those who have lived before me does not make me a racist, nor does it make others like me racist. It is, in fact, those who use that term to label others who are the racist ones.
This needs to stop. We need to live together under the one flag. That is what the Australian Flag represents. It represents unity. It represents mutual respect…
Nothing to do with me, I assure you, all his own unaided thoughts. (I don’t see him all that often, though we just had a quick MSN chat in response to the English/ESL link, which I thanked him for.)
I was chuffed though.
Must correct my g-nephew: I was never H(ead) T(eacher) — just a dogsbody crew member, and of course ESL head, in the sense there was only ever one of us!