A new role promoting liberal values
I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to lead the China and Free Societies program at Sydney's Centre for Independent Studies
August 15 is an important date for many people. In the United States and throughout the world, it’s V-J day, representing Allied victory in the Second World War. In India, it’s Independence Day, celebrating the rebirth of a ancient nation as a modern democracy. More recently (and more tragically), it marked the fall of Kabul to Taliban forces last year. But for me, it means a new beginning. Today I’m taking on a new role as director of the China and Free Societies program at the Centre for Independent Studies, Sydney.
This is a pro bono position, and I remain an associate professor at the University of Sydney. But that makes me no less excited about it. If anything, I’m more excited to be a volunteer than an employee, because it lets me give something back to Australia, a country that for fourteen years has given me a friendly welcome, a salary, and a home.
I’ve been an adjunct scholar at CIS since 2019, but this appointment opens a new chapter in the relationship. From Monday, I’ll be working closely with colleagues at CIS to promote a classical liberal vision for Australia and the region. The meaning of ‘liberalism’ is always open to debate, but I’m very happy simply to refer to the CIS mission statement for guidance:
“The Centre for Independent Studies promotes free choice and individual liberty, and defends cultural freedom and the open exchange of ideas.”
You can’t go wrong with that.
Lest anyone worry that I’ll be taking it easy in my new role, I’m pleased to report that things are already off to a running start. Last week I interviewed former Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the health of Indian democracy, and on Sunday I contributed an op-ed to the Sydney Morning Herald on the state of Australia-China relations:
In this article, I advised Australians not to worry too much about the seemingly endless threats coming out of China, becaiuse Australia is only an incidental factor in Xi Jinping’s domestic political balancing act. The real concern for Australia (and the world) is that Xi himself is increasingly isolated and besieged. As I wrote in the article:
“They used to say that being president of the United States was the loneliest job in the world. Today there are at least three jobs that are lonelier: general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, and president of the People’s Republic of China. Xi holds all three.”
Certainly, don’t shed a tear for Xi. But if you’re going to worry, worry about instability, not invasions. Xi may have dug his own grave, but we don’t want him to lie in it just yet. It would be much better for China (and the world) if he handed over at least some of the reins of government first.
Thanks to Chris Smith at Sky News Australia for asking me on his show to talk about the piece. You can watch the full interview below. And thanks to everyone, as always, for all your support. I hope I can continue to draw on it in my new role at the Centre for Independent Studies.