Message from the Chamber’s President
Over these 25 years there have been many heroes of the chamber, men and women who have given their services voluntarily to this non-government and non-profit association of companies and business people with the purpose of opening and strengthening economic linkages between Australia and the People’s Republic of China. I salute them all.
In particular I make mention of the Liu family. Billy Liu, now remembered as William J. Liu OBE, and immortalised in the chamber scrolls, as the Foundation Governor until his passing in 1983 at 91 years. By tradition successor governors have been the respective Lord Mayors of Sydney. His son Bo Liu, OAM who was a Deputy Governor during 1984/89 and subsequently on retirement from business Chairman of the ACCCI Cultural Committee until 1995, is very fondly remembered. Finally grandson Richard Liu, a foundation Vice President in 1976 and very strong supporter of chamber activities over the last 25 years, is carrying on the tradition of service. Bo received the Chamber’s highest honour, Life Governorship, in 1993, as did Richard in 1999.
At this point I would also make mention and thank the many Chinese Consuls General posted to Sydney who have acted as Patron of ACCCI during these years. Their advice on, and understanding of, the political and cultural differences between a civilization such as China with more than 5000 years of continuous history and a population of well over a billion people and a relatively new nation like Australia with barely 200 years and less then 20 million, has contributed significantly to the work of ACCCI and therefore the broadening and deepening of the relationship between the two countries in trade, investment and other economic areas.
Vision has always been the strength of the chamber. From the start under the strong leadership of Foundation President Darcy Carter OAM, supported by Senior Vice President Roy Dissmeyer, from 1976 to mid-1989 chamber provided the principle leadership role throughout Australia by launching ACCCI organisations in all other States during the years 1978/82, pushing hard for the establishment of the Federal Government’s Australia China Council, and Sister State and Sister City relationships such as NSW/Guangdong and Sydney/Guangzhou.
In fact so many currently accepted aspects of the Australia China relationship like the cultural Chinese Gardens in Sydney or the introduction of dragon boat racing and then the Sydney International Dragon Boat Festivals in 1984 can be traced back to the minutes of the Chamber and the companies of executive members during the 1980s. Darcy was appointed the first Life Governor in 1989, and became Chair of the Life Governors - the ACCCI High Court, in the years 1991/96 on the granting of this honour to Roy Dissmeyer, Reg Torrington and Greg Burns in 1991, Bo Liu, Laurie Smith and Harry Pang in 1993, King Fong OAM in 1997 and Richard Liu in 1999.
The Chamber has always sought to act as a innovator by developing ideas, generating action and passing over to better funded organisations – hoping of course that the momentum would be maintained which unfortunately has not always been the case in our world where if there is not a price tag on something then it is worthless!
During the mid and late 1980s a new leadership group emerged with Reg Torrington, Vice President 1987/89, President 1989, Senior Vice President 1989/91, Deputy Chair Life Governors 1991/96 and Chair Life Governors 1996/2001; Greg Burns, Chief Representative ACT 1987/96 and Deputy Chair Life Governors 1996/2001; and Laurie Smith, Secretary Dragon Boats Australia 1987/96, Chair Achiever of the Year Committee 1988/91, General Secretary ACCCI 1989/91, Senior Vice President 1991/96 and a Life Governor from late 1993 until his sudden death in March 1997.
ACCCI established two Awards during this decade, namely:
the W.J. Liu
Cultural Prize for Chinese Studies in the Faculties of Arts, Commerce
and Economics at the University of New South Wales, first presented in 1985
and continuing every year to the last presentation in 2001.
v The Achiever of the Year Commercial Trophy to the company judged to have made the most significant contribution to trade and investment relations between the two countries, first awarded in 1986 and continued for 12 uninterrupted years until its last presentation in 1997. (Unfortunately this historical trophy and 4 other Cups and Shields were stolen after display at the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel in late 1998).
The 1990s witnessed the growth of the chamber committee system where knowledgeable people could be co-opted to the Trade Policy, Commercial, Public Affairs, Cultural, National Liaison (including New Zealand under CER) and China Liaison (including Taiwan Province) Committees, or the various project committees run by them. The information and expertise accumulated in this process have proved of immense value for helping business people find and benefit from commercial opportunities in both countries.
As an aside, the Chamber has never talked publicly about the commercial activities of its member companies or the off the record briefings by government officials, believing our role is to facilitate not to claim the glory or seek the limelight. Although from time to time we have felt compelled to take strong stands on matters of principle such as Taiwan Province, Human Rights and Corporate Governance when these issues affect Australia China business.
A special thank you is due to the late Laurie Smith who was a dynamic force in the Commercial Committee and in so many ways pioneered relationships at the personal and human level between Australian and Chinese commercial interests. No-one can forget his train travels throughout China, his PLA contacts in business, his spontaneous signing of the original co-operative agreements with provinces, cities and other economic bodies in the early 1990s, nor his many official wives and unofficial girl friends. We will not see the likes of Laurie again and as I said in my oration at his funeral “China owes Laurie Smith” for what he did and suffered in the crucial years of 1989/91.
Again the times and events began to produce new leaders. John Zerby joined the Trade Policy Committee of ACCCI in late 1992, as a result of a series of ten international affairs seminars organised by the Centre for Applied Economic Research at UNSW that were co-sponsored by the Chamber. Two important ones were:
Thursday 1 August, 1991 – “Taiwan Province: An
Engine for China’s Trade and Investment? Australia’s Involvement!” – held at
the State Parliament Theatre, Macquarie Street, Sydney and featuring the
special representative of the long serving Chairman of the China Council for
the Promotion of International Trade, Mr Zheng Hongye.
v Friday 20 November, 1992 – “Business Prospects in Northeast Asia: The Next 10 Years” – held at the Austrade Conference Room, Castlereagh Street, Sydney, and featuring the full range of Parliamentary, DFAT, Austrade and Corporate speakers.
John Zerby subsequently went on to chair the Trade Policy Committee in 1994/95 and then at the end of 1996 assume the position of Senior Vice President responsible for Trade Policy and Commercial (Commerce and Industry). Over the last five years he has been the driving intellectual force behind Chamber’s submissions to various arms of government and research bodies in both Australia and China on questions of trade policy at the global, regional, national, provincial, municipal and district levels.
He also wrote the famous ACCCI Blue (1995) and Green (1996) Books that launched the Chamber’s Cities Strategy wherein I eventually signed 42 co-ordinated Co-operative Agreements with seven provinces and thirty five cities in China. (As a matter of interest these agreements were signed with each of the three key Chinese officials namely the CCPIT Chairman, Municipal Mayor and Party Secretary).
This has led in turn to the May 2001 announcement, as part of the NSW Government’s Small Business Month, of Chamber’s decision to target 201 key cities in China according to a 6 classification criteria – all of which can be found in the appropriate section of this Website. John and his Special Advisor Frank Zhang (ex CCPIT Representative in Australia and now a citizen) have become a well-known double act in organising and hosting top level Chinese Provincial and Municipal Government Trade Missions to Sydney.
Since the early 1990s the National and China Liaison Committees, working directly out of the ACCCI Secretariat at Belrose, have sought to build and maintain strong communication links with branches of member companies and friendly organisations and business people throughout Australasia and Greater China. A three level strategy has gradually evolved namely:
the exchange of programmes and experience between
the various Sister-State Relationship bodies such as Tasmania/Fujian,
Victoria/Jiangsu, South Australia/Shandong, Western Australia/Zhejiang, and
so on. The chamber played an important part in extending these agreements to
not only emphasise export/import and investment via joint ventures, but also
to stress firstly business information including academic research and
development by establishing long-term institutional economic relations, and
secondly public administration including social services by transfer of all
forms of management expertise.
the concentration on the municipal strata of
Chinese government comprising about 650 cities officially but with thousands
of towns and villages fast growing as
mini commercial centres. Given the population disparities between our two
countries, of the 150 “sister-city” agreements signed to our knowledge only
about 80 survive in theory with perhaps 20 functioning to the standard
advocated by ACCCI – much to our disappointment and Australia’s lose. Chamber
has sought to work with various organisations including the Local Government
Associations and the Australian Sister City Association to rectify this
v the formulation of an Australian government economic policy towards China viewed as a regional civilisation akin to “Greater Europe” (Gibraltar to the Urals) and not just another nation like Fiji in the UN. This is why ACCCI has devoted so much time to meetings, workshops and seminars with leading Chinese “think tanks” and research bodies and reporting the results in briefings to DFAT in Canberra and DSRD in Sydney with unfortunately mixed responses. Chamber welcomes the Federal ALP’s call for an Australia China Trade Treaty, which at least could bring together the economic strands that currently exist. However if tied into the World Bank and other international financial institutions, the Treaty might become a Australian Co-operative Agreement with China or National Strategy for Assistance to the Economic Development of that “region” with momentous implications for commerce and industry in this country once China has joined the WTO.
The other high profile powerhouse of ACCCI activity to emerge in the mid 1990s was Marilyn Walker, accountant, tax and legal journalist, and classical music entrepreneur. In the second half of 1994 she organised the exhibition of the Late W. J. Liu OBE Memorial Scroll at the High Court in Canberra with the Federal Minister for Trade and the Chinese Ambassador. In 1995 Marilyn became Chair of the ACCCI Cultural Committee and organised a extremely successful trade and cultural mission to Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai in May/June.
During 1996/97 Marilyn played a vital role in the re-organisation of dragon boat racing in Australia, with trips to Adelaide, South Australia, and Wellington, New Zealand, which has come to fruition only in the last two years with the final consolidation of Test Match Racing between Australia, China and soon other countries in the Indo-Pacific region. Similarly she made a very important backroom organisational contribution to the success of the ACCCI Rugby in China project, begun in 1989 by Presidents Reg Torrington and Michael Jones and re-launched as part of the ACCCI Cultural Programme in China at the Jean Garling Room, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney on Monday 10 October 1994.
As a result in November 1995 I was privileged to be present in Beijing at its First Rugby Tournament, comprising 9 teams, and to present the prizes at the official ceremony that was attended by the Senior Australian Trade Commissioner in China. As a matter of interest and great pride to me I was able to present 43 gold kangaroo pins to each of the players, reserve players, coaches, officials, referee and linesmen who participated in the final won by the China Agricultural University. The next year in late September Chamber was able to organise a visit to Sydney of a delegation of 8 Chinese Rugby officials, namely the three top administrators, three principal coaches and two leading referees. These achievements would not have happened without Marilyn’s energetic support at all levels.
In late 1996 Marilyn Walker accepted the position of ACCCI Vice President responsible for Public Affairs and Culture and for the last five years has represented the chamber at hundreds of official functions in Sydney and Canberra, including meeting the Chinese President and Vice President, plus Ambassadors, Consuls General and Chief Commercial Representatives as well as numerous Governors and Mayors from Chinese Provinces and Cities. She has spoken widely on maters touching on human rights and corporate governance in the area of public affairs, and the performing and visual arts in culture. In 2000 she was strongly supported as the ACCCI nominee for a position on the NSW Premier’s East Asia Business Advisory Council and is playing her usual constructive role in its deliberations.
Three highlights of Marilyn’s cultural activities readily come to mind:
Chamber’s 20th anniversary celebration at the QVB
Ballroom on 16th September 1996, addressed by the Chinese Ambassador His
Excellency Mr Hua Junduo, for which both the Chinese Australian Opera Star
Shu-Cheen Yu and the equally renown Australian pianist Gerard Willems
The Gala Recital by the world famous Chinese
pianist Xiang-Dong Kong at the Sydney Town Hall on the 19th September 1997 to
launch the Fred Hollows Foundation microsurgical contaract training programme
v A Night of Stars being “a magnificent night of popular opera highlights and classical music” at the Willoughby Town Hall, Chatswood, on 4th August 1999 which included Ding Yi, Principal Tenor Beijing National Opera, Shu-Cheen Yu, Soprano Opera Australia, and Simon Tedeschi, pianist – ABC Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year.
Finally I would be very remiss if I did not mention and thank Chamber’s man in China, John Wang who acted as our Chief Representative in Beijing for four years during 1997/2001, and has recently accepted the very onerous position as Chair of the ACCCI China Liaison Committee responsible for co-ordinating our activities in the 201 target cities plus keep an eye on the Hong Kong SAR and Taiwan Province. We don’t ask members to do much in the Chamber!! John hosted a very important and successful visit by me to Beijing in February 1998 and has assisted John Zerby and Marilyn Walker as well as other member company representatives in numerous visits to Beijing. More recently he has travelled to distant places in China to present chamber papers at trade related conferences and seminars. It was very gratifying for me that John could be in Sydney for our 25th anniversary celebration and the official launch of this Website.
Once again there are many people, and their companies, who have made contributions, great and small, over 25 years to ACCCI objectives and I thank them all on behalf of Presidents Carter, Torrington and myself. As for the future, please read the material in this Website (to be updated quarterly), and simple be both amazed at what a non-government, non-profit and voluntary bilateral organisation can achieve, and proud that it all started in Sydney and is completely run by Australians.