Editor of China Heritage and co-founder, with John Minford, of The Wairarapa Academy for New Sinology.
Born in Sydney in 1954, I went to Canberra to study Sanskrit, Chinese and history at The Australian National University (ANU) in 1972 and then to the People’s Republic of China in 1974. I worked as an editor and translator in Hong Kong from 1977 and began a part-time career as a writer of Chinese essays in 1978 (continuing until 1991). After returning to Australia to study Japanese intensively, I went to Japan until 1983 after which I began doctoral research under my undergraduate Chinese teacher Pierre Ryckmans (Simon Leys). During the 1980s, I continued to pursue a part-time career as a writer for the popular media and as a translator, as well as working on various projects with John Minford. I was awarded a PhD in 1989 and began a research career as a post-doctoral fellow at ANU. I stayed at that institution until my retirement in 2015.
My work as both an academic historian and a China specialist from the 1980s has pursued an interdisciplinary approach resulting in monographs, chapters, refereed articles, keynote addresses, conference presentations, films, websites and a range of major public outreach activities.
My career has also been distinguished by a series of successful, long-term and highly productive collaborations with scholars and writers in Australia, China (including Hong Kong), North America and the United Kingdom, as well as with filmmakers in North America. For nearly three decades these collaborations have resulted in a diverse range of academic and popularly accessible publications and other works recognized by peer evaluation, specialist comment and popular approbation.
Through the writing of ten monographs, two volumes of essays in Chinese, the editing of five edited books, three volumes of translations, two documentary films and the design and writing of two archival websites, the creation and editing of an e-journal, as well as nearly two decades as the editor of a prominent journal on East Asian history, through the publication in the Australian and prominent international media of numerous essays, articles and think pieces I have created an academic oeuvre of considerable range and quantity. Throughout I have felt it incumbent upon me to bring my scholastic expertise into the broader realm of public debate, public policy discussions and popular understanding, be it in Australia, or more broadly. I have done this both through the medium of English-language writing, briefings, consultations and media activities, as well as in Chinese, and through the translation of my work into Japanese and Spanish, and my films into French and German.
Early collaborations resulted in such works as Trees on the Mountain (1983), Seeds of Fire (1986, 2nd ed. 1988, 1989) and New Ghosts, Old Dreams (1992), and prominent film and website work, The Gate of Heavenly Peace (1995; www.tsquare.tv) and Morning Sun (2003; www.morningsun.org). The founding of the China Heritage Project and the e-journal China Heritage Quarterly in 2005 allowed for a broad new range of collaborative possibilities with established and younger scholars in Australia, China, the UK and North America. Many of the ideas I formulated from the 1970s were brought into focus by my creation, with Kevin Rudd, then prime minister of Australia, of the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National Univeristy in 2010. I was able to pursue that vision until retiring from formal academic life in November 2015.
My own monographs such as Shades of Mao (1996) and In the Red (1999), An Artistic Exile (2002) and The Forbidden City (2008), refereed journal articles, book chapters, keynote addresses, speeches to professional organizations, government leaders, analysts and diplomats, research-led curriculum development and teaching, as well as a public engagement, are added to by work introducing Chinese ideas, thinkers, academics and writers to English-reading audiences through such works as China Candid (2006), The Rings of Beijing, and numerous other translations.
A Note on Translated Voices
Since 1977, my writing career has involved an effort to introduce English-reading audiences to select Chinese voices. After my studies in the People’s Republic of China were curtailed in 1977, I spent some years working in Hong Kong. There my colleague Bennett Lee and I translated commentaries and political analyses jointly written by Lee Yee 李怡 and Liang Liyi 梁麗儀, a husband and wife team, and published as editorials in The Seventies Monthly under the name ‘Qi Xin’ 齊辛, a homophone for ‘a shared heart-mind’. We also translated The Wounded: New Stories of the Cultural Revolution, 77-78, which appeared in early 1979.
In the early 1980s, my part-time translation efforts focussed on the Cultural Revolution memoirs of Yang Jiang 楊絳, Ba Jin 巴金 and Chen Baichen 陳白塵 following which, in the mid 1980s, I became involved first in translating some of the oral history work of Sang Ye 桑曄 and Zhang Xinxin 張辛欣 and then in a book project titled Seeds of Fire: Chinese voices of conscience (Hong Kong, 1986). That was followed in 1992 by New Ghosts, Old Dreams: Chinese rebel voices, more work on the oral histories of Sang Ye, as well as on material published by the investigative journalist Dai Qing 戴晴. A wide range of voices also featured in my survey of the popular revival of Mao during the early 1990s, published as Shades of Mao: the posthumous cult of the Great Leader. In tandem with those efforts, I worked with colleagues in Boston on two film projects — The Gate of Heavenly Peace (1995) and Morning Sun (2003) — both of which feature a polyphony of Chinese voices. Over the years, I have been just as interested in discordant voices and those of Chinese officialdom, including those of such henchmen and handmaidens as He Xin 何新 and Wang Xiaodong 王小東, who featured in my 1995 essay To Screw Foreigners is Patriotic: China’s avant-garde nationalists.
— from Awakenings — a Voice from Young China on the Duty to Rebel, 14 November 2022
Short Curriculum Vitae
Employee of The Australian National University (1989-2015), Crawford Prize recipient for doctoral thesis; Levenson Prize winner from the American Asian Studies Association; recipient of various historical documentary film awards in North America and Europe for film projects with the Long Bow Group in Boston, etc
Professor of Chinese History, ANU (1999-2015)
Head, Division of Pacific and Asian History, ANU Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (2000-2002)
Australian Research Countil Federation Fellow (2005-2010)
ANU Service Medal (2006)
Founder and Director, Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW) (2010-2015)
Member, Executive of ANU College of Asia & the Pacific (2012-2015)
Founding Director, CIW (July-November 2015)
Fellow of the Academy of Humanties in Australia (1994-)
Editor, East Asian History (1991-2007); China Heritage Quarterly (2005-2012); The China Story Journal (2012-2016)
Professor Emeritus, ANU (2016-)
Co-founder with John Minford of the Wairarapa Academy for New Sinology (2016)
Founder and Editor, China Heritage (2016-), China Heritage Annual (2017-) and A New Sinology Reader (2018-)