A delegation from the Beijing Municipal Government visited AIIA NSW on 12 June for discussion of subjects of mutual interest. Beijing, the capital city of the People’s Republic of China, has the same status as a province and the visit to Australia was coordinated by the Foreign Affairs Office of the Municipal Government. Prof Richard Broinowski, the Vice President of AIIA NSW and Prof Jocelyn Chey, a Council Member of the Institute, received the delegation on behalf of the Branch and in the absence overseas of President Colin Chapman.
Prof Broinowski outlined the history and functions of the Institute for the delegation and gave his personal views on the development of Australia-China relations, expressing a hope for closer dialogue in the future to increase mutual understanding. For one thing, many Australians hoped that any animosity or distrust between China and the United States would not force us to chose between our tradition ally and what had now become our most important trading partner. The delegation raised a number of points of interest concerning Australia’s foreign policy, particularly relating to Japan and Korea and there was considerable discussion on these points.
The delegation also asked for comments about how Sydney coped with the ongoing influx of new migrants and whether any problems had arisen. The problem of rapid urbanisation is a hot topic in China at present – see for instance Ian Johnson, “China’s great uprooting: Moving 250 million into the cities” in the New York Times of 16 June. In response Prof Chey outlined how Australia had changed the last half century as people had moved from the country to the city, particularly to Sydney. New migrants also preferred to settle in Sydney and as a result this city was a vibrant multicultural centre. Problems arising related partly to the Australian preference for living in suburban houses, resulting in urban sprawl and inefficient transport and service networks. Migrants from particular ethnic and language groups also tended to move into neighbourhoods where they had relatives or friends so that Sydney now had some suburbs with a preponderance of, say, Vietnamese or Arabic people. New migrants, and particularly refugees, also tended to live in outer suburbs where housing was cheaper but often those areas had less than optimal services such as schools or hospitals, leading to problems of disadvantage.
Jocelyn Chey is a Councillor at the AIIA (NSW)