Mapping the future for Australia and China’s cultural connections

AFCT Douglas Gautier AM, Yang Zhi, Alec Coles OBE, Ryan Webb, Ruth Rentschler OAM and Ying Zhu - photo by Juan Van StadenIn a first for Australia and China, a blueprint for cultural exchange to encourage understanding and cooperation has been outlined by the Adelaide Festival Centre and the University of South Australia.

The Australia-China Arts and Cultural Exchange Report, which examines how arts and cultural exchange can open doors to greater opportunities in trade, tourism and education was led by professors Ruth Rentschler OAM – Head of School of Management and Ying Zhu – Director of Australian Centre for Asian Business at the University of South Australia.

Produced with the support of Beijing Normal Business School and funded by the Department of Communications and the Arts, Canberra, this is the first international study of arts and cultural exchange in Australia and China. The study found mutual trust can be developed between the two nations through key events and activities which help overcome barriers to relationship development.

The report recommends cultural dialogues take place between Australian and Chinese delegates every two years. Dialogue builds relationships and creates audience development strategies for arts and cultural events. Building strong cultural agreements between nations, regions and cities will have flow on effects to trade, tourism and education – boosting economic and social opportunity.

“The Australia-China Arts and Cultural Symposium marks growing momentum in Australian-Chinese cultural dialogue,” said Adelaide Festival Centre CEO & Artistic Director Douglas Gautier AM. “This event demonstrated the important role of arts and cultural organisations to bring together government, industry, diplomats, artists, academics, and community leaders by creating platforms and celebrating the arts in tangible and intangible ways.”

The symposium opened with a presentation on Intangible Cultural Heritage by Minister Counselor for Cultural Affairs at the Embassy of P. R. China in Australia, Mr Yang Zhi: “The symposium was a wonderful platform to bring together Chinese and Australian counterparts who pursue a closer cultural relation between China and Australia,” he said.

“Cultural exchange can help to promote mutual understanding, mutual appreciation and mutual respect between our two countries. I highly appreciate the consistent efforts made by Adelaide Festival Centre and the University of South Australia. I wish to see more such events taking place in the future.”

Following the presentation of the report findings, Douglas Gautier AM moderated a panel discussion with report authors Ruth Rentschler OAM and Ying Zhu; Mr Yang Zhi; Ryan Webb, Director, Arts Investment & Cultural Diplomacy, Department of Communications and the Arts; and Alec Coles OBE, Western Australia Museum CEO.

The panel discussion highlighted the importance of: establishing ministerial dialogue and building relationships based on regular visits and collective submissions; and clear and consistent bilateral relationships (which may take years to build.) In Alec Coles’ $400,000,000 project to build a new museum in Western Australia, he achieved a $5,000,000 sponsorship from the Tianqi Lithium Corporation following several years of conversations with Chairman, Mr Jiang Weiping.

More cultural exchange case studies with actionable outcomes and recommendations. These will be a vital learning resource to small and medium-sized organisations given their limited capacity to initiate cultural engagement or exchange with China themselves.

Building relationships with Chinese tourists; according to the recent report of the Australia Council for the Arts, 620,000 Chinese tourists visited Australia in 2017 indicating strong potential for Australian companies to gain access to China. There is potential to co-create a social, cultural, and economic international powerhouse through export and tourism industries with Australian-Chinese links.

“Engaging with the Chinese diaspora and arts community through our successful symposium was a perfect way to nuance the findings from the study,” said Ruth Rentschler OAM. “It enriched them so that they resonate widely with stakeholders in government, the arts and cultural industry and the community.”

For more information including a copy of the report, visit: for details.

Image: Douglas Gautier AM, Yang Zhi, Alec Coles OBE, Ryan Webb, Ruth Rentschler OAM and Ying Zhu – photo by Juan Van Staden