Welcome remarks at UNSW’s 2018 Chinese New Year Reception

His Excellency Consul General Gu Xiaojie, Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Sydney, members of the Diplomatic Corps, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I offer you all a very warm welcome to UNSW Sydney’s Chinese New Year reception.

It is certainly a day we look forward to with much anticipation, given its reputation as a vibrant and happy celebration of Chinese culture.

This year we welcome the Year of the Dog and, with it, we welcome the coming of good fortune which it represents. Because good fortune is emblematic of the relationship between UNSW and our friends in China.

It is very nice when good fortune happens by chance but it is also rewarding when we work together to create our own.

The Chinese students who come to Australia to study are an important part of how we have created – and continue to create – our own good fortune. They are most welcome at UNSW and most welcome in our country.

This year, UNSW is delighted to have a record Chinese international student enrolment. It is very rewarding to think that so many trust us to provide them a safe, high-quality and fulfilling education on Australian shores.

Twelve and a half thousand Chinese international students now call UNSW home for the duration of their degrees. But even after they finish their studies, they remain part of a globally connected family and that is incredibly powerful.

There is much to be gained from fostering closer, authentic relationships between Chinese students and others who attend UNSW – some from Australia and some from other corners of our globe.

The goodwill, understanding and appreciation of Australia’s society and its many institutions endures as our graduates move into positions of influence back in China.

Unfortunately, we have heard some misinformed public debate in Australia recently.

The rightful place of education in any such conversation is as a force for a stronger, more substantive bilateral relationship. UNSW’s firm belief in this continues to drive our leadership role in advocating for a measured, balanced and positive debate.

My hope is the reality of the friendships made and the understanding fostered on our campuses, transcend the noise of the few who seek to cause dissent.

A knowledge-intensive global economy can only benefit from knowledge exchange. From the sharing of ideas and experience – whether at the undergraduate, post-graduate or post-doctoral level – or indeed the rich exchange that is generated through our engagement with industry.

Breaking down the barriers to that sharing and collaboration results in better outcomes.

Ultimately, the joint ventures between UNSW and our Chinese partners promote economic and social development. A worthy goal by any standards.

I was fortunate to make two trips to China in the Year of the Rooster.

I visited China’s prestigious Tsinghua University where I met with UNSW and Tsinghua researchers who were recipients of the first round of funding from the New Joint Research Fund.

They are doing tremendous work together at Tsinghua on renewable energy, water treatment and medicine.

I also visited our longstanding partner, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, with which UNSW has established a new Joint PhD.

This will build on the foundations of joint investment – in research spanning engineering, science, business, medicine and law – which have been laid over the past five years.

We are proud to work with two of China’s great universities. And I congratulate both institutions on their respective success in the most recent QS and Times Higher Education rankings.

That rise in stature is representative of a broader trend in Chinese higher education where global centres of excellence in research, education and knowledge exchange are rapidly emerging.

This is also reflected in the wider R&D landscape where Chinese investment in the sector has risen by 18 percent annually since the turn of the 21st century.

This has enormous ramifications for Australia’s own innovation ecosystem and we look forward to furthering our partnerships and joint ventures.

Our research and innovation systems can only remain competitive if they are globally connected, especially as the centre of gravity continues to shift to the Asia-Pacific region. China is an obvious partner for this endeavour.

The Year of the Rooster also saw the establishment of the UNSW Yixing Centre for Transformational Environment Technologies.

This is the new $20 million centre providing 2,000 square metres of space at China’s only Torch Park – exclusively focused on water and environmental technology.

The new Centre will provide a base for UNSW to jointly incubate and commercialise leading technology in the areas of energy, membrane water treatment and environmental engineering.

It is set to have a major impact on the economic and environmental future of the Yangzte River Delta and more broadly across China.

During his speech to the Australia China Economic & Trade Forum last year, Chinese Premier Li called the Torch Innovation Precinct at UNSW ‘a shining beacon of bilateral cooperation in innovation and entrepreneurship’.

It is an initiative of which UNSW is extremely proud.

We were also proud of our selection as an official partner in China’s Mass Innovation & Entrepreneurship Week.

The event saw us partner with Tsinghua and TusHoldings to produce the inaugural iGlobal Startup Competition.

Teams of Chinese and Australian entrepreneurs compete for venture capital investment, cash prizes and mentorship from some of China’s most dynamic innovators and entrepreneurs.

UNSW is also gearing up to open a new China Centre in the heart of Shanghai.

This will be home to the University’s China operations and a dynamic place to land student and staff startups from UNSW – and across Australia – and connect with China’s rapidly growing innovation and entrepreneurship system.

I will travel to Shanghai in the first part of this year to open this 500 square metre facility which is spread over three floors and located within a major incubation and technology precinct.

Our China Centre is part of a new partnership with the Shanghai Yangpu District Government. And forms a major part of Yangpu’s efforts to position this former industrial district in Shanghai as a key hub for innovation and high technology industry.

UNSW now has more than $100 million worth of research contracts with Chinese industry partners in the active pipeline, with nearly $60 million of actual contracts signed with over 30 Chinese companies.

This is an extraordinary achievement for a University collaboration which is less than two years old.

It demonstrates UNSW’s pan-institutional commitment to this flagship collaboration and the appetite for Chinese companies to globalise and engage with world class research.

Before I finish I want to pay tribute to former students, some of whom I was lucky to meet at a UNSW alumni event in Beijing last year.

We are incredibly proud that China is home to the second largest concentration of UNSW alumni outside Australia and these numbers are rapidly growing.

They join an alumni community of almost 300,000 that spans 152 countries.

Our alumni are more than just well-educated men and women who lead fulfilling careers and contribute to the economy.

They are potential ambassadors and advocates. A powerful global network of people who have a shared knowledge and understanding of how the world works outside of their own backyard.

They have built strong connections and great friendships.

It is said that nobody can take away your education. Nor can they take the experience of living and studying, or working, in a different country and culture.

I passionately believe that the people-to-people relationships forged through education and knowledge exchange – embodied so powerfully in UNSW’s China story – will create the foundations of even stronger bilateral ties between Australia and China.

I thank you for your support of UNSW’s commitment to international education and research and I thank you for your attendance here this evening.

All that is left for me to say is xiè xiè nĭmen – gong xi fa cai.

I now invite our good friend His Excellency Consul General Gu Xiaojie, Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Sydney. I ask you to join me in warmly welcoming His Excellency to the podium.

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