Center for Oceanian Studies at Sun Yat-Sen University (中山大学 -大洋洲研究中心)

Outrigger recently posted a note about the launch of the first centre for the study of Oceania in China.* In this follow-up post, we interview Prof. YU Chang-sen ((喻常森老师), the Deputy Executive Director of the Center for Oceanian Studies (COS) at Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU) about the Center and plans for its future.

What are the origins of the Center for Oceanian Studies in the School of Asia-Pacific Studies at Sun Yat-sen University and who is involved with the Center?

“As one of the top 10 ranked universities in China, SYSU** is committed to the internationalization of its teaching and research programs. It has established extensive exchange cooperation relationships with overseas universities and research institutions including those in Australian and New Zealand. As early as the 1980s, there was an Australian studies center at SYSU. In 2008, the School of Asia-Pacific Studies signed a cooperation agreement with the Griffith Asia Institute (Griffith University) and the University of Southern Queensland to form a Sino-Australian joint research program with a centre at Sun Yat-sen University.

In January 2012, the Center for Oceanian Studies was appointed as a primary regional study base by the Ministry of Education of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). On May 4, 2012, Professor WEI Ming-hai, Vice President of SYSU, was appointed the Director of the Center. Later, I was appointed Executive Deputy Director of the Center. [Dr. Yu’s academic work is focused on Australian international studies and he was a visiting scholar at Griffith University from 1998-1999]. In recent months, we have welcomed the addition of Professor CHANG Chen-guang, (Dean of the School of Foreign Languages, SYSU) and Associate Professor WANG Xue-dong (Deputy Director of the Center for U.S. Studies, SYSU) to the Center’s Committee and Assistant Professor FEI Sheng as Director Assistant of the Center. Dr FEI is a former exchange student to the Australian National University (2010-2011) and finished his Ph.D dissertation on Australian history at Peking University, Beijing.”

What are your priorities for teaching, research and collaboration and what are the aims of the Center in the medium/long term?

“COS is integrating trans-disciplinary scholars who are interested in Oceania Studies (Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands) into an academic community.

Basically, we are now working in two research fields: one is the China-Oceania relationship; the other is the domestic issues of the countries and islands of Oceania. In the near future, the main tasks will be research, personnel training and policy consulting. The main research fields are: 1) Politics and legal systems; 2) Economic development and trade; 3) External relations; 4) Social, historical and cultural issues. The center will offer graduate and undergraduate courses—“Australian Foreign Relation Studies”, “Guide for Oceania Studies” and “Modern China-Australia Relationship”—across the whole university. The long term development target of this Centre will be to build a reputation, both domestically and internationally, as a first-class research centre and think-tank.”

What are the current activities of the Center and what is planned in the near future?

“Since August 2012, we have funded ten research/survey programs on key issues related to Oceania, including: China-Australian relations, climate change, mining industry, foreign aid, domestic development of small islands, and a concise dictionary of biography of Oceania. These programs will be published in 2013 in two book series: Yearbook of Oceania Region; the Dictionary of Who’s Who in Oceania.

COS also has a distinguished visitor program for foreign scholars to give lectures, speeches and to present their research on Oceania. In 2012, we invited Prof. Michael Wesley (Lowy Institute for International Policy), Prof. Andrew O’Neil (Griffith Asia Institute) and NSW Senator Hon Henry Tsang to give lectures at SYSU. COS now has a network of ten Chinese research fellows who are focusing broadly on issues of international studies, economic, law, and history in Oceania.

COS issues the Newsletter of Oceania Studies irregularly in Chinese, which it hopes will gain wide currency among academics and foreign policy makers in China. COS is also actively involved in organising international conferences. On Dec. 4-6 2012, COS will hold a significant conference — Historical experience and latest developments: international conference in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Australia-China diplomatic relations. The Australian Ambassador to China will present the opening ceremony.”

If you would like to find out more about the Center for Oceanian Studies or its programs, please contact Associate Professor YU Chang-sen (喻常森老师lpsycs@mail.sysu.edu.cn) or Associate Professor Fei Sheng (费晟feish@mail.sysu.edu.cn).

* Note: COS understands Oceania as Australia, New Zealand and (SW) Pacific islands.
** SYSU is in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province (adjacent to Hong Kong and Macao).

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