by Geremie R Barmé
Following the 2009 ‘annus horribilis‘ in the Australia-China relationship, a year during which economic, political and sovereignty issues bedevilled the two countries, and with the establishment of the Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW) in 2010, I thought it was important that we create an archive of media and research work on the bilateral relationship. Such an archive would both offer an account of the relationship and give users access to a comprehensive range of material that tracks the main topics, debates and changes in the relationship.
Nathan Woolley helped me compile a dossier of material about the dramatic year of 2009. With the launch of The China Story Project in August 2012, I started building up material for what is now The Australia-China Story. Along with a body of relevant links to other sites, I wrote an introduction to the project and began sorting the material that Nathan and I had gathered under topics with live links to archived material.The initial link to that material was via The China Story site (www.thechinastory.org/the-australia-china-story/).
During 2012, the fortieth anniversary year of the normalisation of bilateral relations and of Australia’s formal recognition of the People’s Republic of China, I worked with colleagues at CIW and Dr Claire Roberts and others to organise two workshops on the early years of diplomatic and cultural contact between Australia and the People’s Republic. We marked the fortieth anniversary in other ways as well, including the publication of a joint bilateral report on the relationship undertaken with Beijing think tank, the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, and the publication in bilingual format of a major essay by Dr Stephen FitzGerald, the first Australian ambassador to the People’s Republic, titled ‘Australia and China at Forty: Stretch of the Imagination’.
In the early months of the 2013 election year, our former ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Chubb suggested we launch a project to provide an incoming Federal government with a broad range of opinion on the bilateral relationship. Our CIW Australia-China Strategic Research Fellow Ryan Manuel and I then created a volume from the papers we solicited as a result of Ian Chubb’s suggestion; these were published first online prior to the election. The book, A New Australia-China Agenda, co-edited by Ryan and myself, was launched at Parliament House in Canberra in August 2014 and distributed to all members of both houses of parliament.
In late 2013, Ryan also began to bring order to what was becoming an unwieldy online collection of material that I had been putting together for some five years. He began organising the media information by topic with introductory essays and links to articles. In this endeavour he invited with my support Neil Thomas as a Morrison Scholar to join the project. In tandem with Ryan, Neil sculpted the material in the Archive into chapters and sections, and he added introductory essays to guide users through the thicket of information.
At the suggestion of colleagues in early 2014, I gave up reading print versions of the daily press and cutting out articles for inclusion in The Australia-China Story and scanned instead online versions of the mainstream media to amass relevant items to include in our burgeoning archive.
In this process, I worked with Ryan and our CIW designer Markuz Wernli to develop an independent Australia-China Story website with the aim of eventually launching what we could now see was becoming a national Australia-China Story Archive. Neil Thomas continued his work collecting articles and writing introductory essays.
The archive which you are reading is the culmination of more than five years of scouring the daily Australian press for relevant reports, stories, essays and commentaries, and the painstaking work of many people in filing these materials into a useable web archive.
— July 2015