The Australian

By Michael Sainsbury

THE University of Sydney will launch Australia's biggest China studies centre, with the aim of building a better understanding of our largest trading partner. The China Studies Centre, which will have 150 academics, will shade its rival at the Australian National University for size.

It is intended that it will eventually match the University of Sydney's US Studies Centre in scope and influence.

Australia's oldest university is in the process of appointing four new chairs and 11 new lecturers for a centre that will cross the disciplines of public health, business law, history and medicine.

Sydney's vice-chancellor Michael Spence told The Australian: "What we are doing is looking at the details of Chinese life and hoping we can make a contribution in some small way to development of solutions to the problems that China faces.

"This centre will not just have an important academic role but a crucial role, like our US Studies Centre, of providing public and government education."

Dr Spence was in Beijing last weekend with the university's chancellor, NSW governor Marie Bashir, for the institution's annual graduation of some of its 4200 Chinese students.

The university is expected to tip in an extra $10 million for new staff and resources for the China Studies Centre but this will be a fraction of the total cost of running the centre.

Dr Spence has called for a public contribution, akin to the controversial $53m donation made to the ANU's China institute by former prime minister Kevin Rudd without any tender process for distributing the funds.

"We think that our centre is really important and worthy of public support," Dr Spence said.

"We are at the moment funding the centre through the university's own resources because of our commitment to contemporary China.

"But we are looking at both private philanthropic and government funding. We also think it's important for the region."