China at the Crossroads: What the Third Plenum means for China, New Zealand and the World

Date: 2 July, 2014

Location: Hunter Council Chamber, Victoria University of Wellington

Conference description

In November 2013 the Communist Party of China held the third plenary session of its current central committee, which had been elected as part at the Party's eighteenth national congress in 2012.

The Third Plenum, and the Decision on Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening Reform it adopted, has been heralded by Chinese commentators as one of the most critical junctures of national policy-making since the beginning of China’s reforms.

The Decision, they point out, places unprecedented emphasis on the ‘decisive’ role of the market in the Chinese economy, and paves the way for a government that will ultimately confine itself to macroeconomic and market regulation, public services, social administration and environmental protection.

This Third Plenum has frequently been compared to the famous Third Plenum held in December 1978, which marked the end of the Maoist era, confirmed Deng Xiaoping as China’s paramount leader, and marked the beginning of the far-reaching reform process that has since transformed China both domestically and internationally.

This year's annual conference on contemporary China gathered together an outstanding group of leading international experts on contemporary China to explore this Third Plenum in light of China's reform challenges and to draw out the implications of the Third Plenum Decision for New Zealand and the region.

Conference schedule

The conference was opened by Hon Tim Groser who spoke on 'Trading up or Creating Dependency' and was followed by the keynote speech, 'China at the Crossroads', from Professor David Shambaugh. Hon Phil Goff spoke after lunch on New Zealand-China relations. The conference panels covered the following topics:

Panel 1 considered key domestic policy reforms addressed by the Third Plenum in the political and social spheres, including the role of the Communist Party, rural land rights, labour and international migration, and social conditions.

Panel 2 considered key domestic policy reforms with respect to economic and financial affairs, including macroeconomic and financial reforms, and policies relating to the banking sector and debt, state owned enterprises, natural resource demand and the environment, and urbanization and household registration.

Panel 3 considered the implications of Plenum decisions for China’s relations with New Zealand as well as with the Asia Pacific region and the world. There was a focus on how policy reforms will likely affect trade, investment and people flows, including those involving New Zealand; another was the likely trends in Chinese foreign policy including military and strategic affairs.

Download the Conference Guide pdf498KB here.

A publication of the conference materials will be available shortly.

Key speakers

Hon Tim Groser

Minister of Trade.

Hon Tim Groser was New Zealand's chief negotiator in the Uruguay Round of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) before serving as New Zealand's ambassador to Indonesia from 1994 to 1997. He then served as New Zealand's ambassador to the WTO (World Trade Organization) and as the chair of agricultural negotiations in the WTO Doha Round. He became Minister of Trade in 2008.

Hon Phil Goff

Labour Party Spokesperson on Trade.

Hon Phil Goff held various ministerial positions during the 1984-1990 and 1999-2008 Labour Governments, including Minister of Defence and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Between 2008 and 2011 he also served as Leader of the Labour Party.

Professor David Shambaugh

Professor David Shambaugh, the conference’s keynote speaker, is one of the most respected US-based specialists on China today.

A prolific writer, speaker and broadcaster, his latest book China Goes Global: The Partial Power has been acclaimed as the most insightful account to date of China’s rise to power. The Economist praised it as ‘a fascinating and scholarly challenge to the received wisdom about China's rise’. The Wilson Center called it ‘the book many have been waiting for - a sweeping account of China's growing prominence on the international stage’. Foreign Affairs called it ‘a masterful survey of China’s presence on the world scene’. Joseph Nye called the book as ‘a must read’.

David Shambaugh is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and Director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University, Washington DC. Earlier he directed the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and was Reader in Chinese Politics at SOAS (the School of Oriental & African Studies) in the University of London, when he was editor of the China Quarterly. His other recent books include China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation; and Power Shift: China and Asia’s New Dynamics.

Professor Anne-Marie Brady

Professor Anne-Marie Brady is Professor of Political Science at the University of Canterbury, a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington DC and a Senior Fellow at the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham. A highly regarded specialist on Chinese politics as well as polar politics, she is editor-in-chief of The Polar Journal, and the author of eight books and more than forty scholarly papers on a range of issues including China’s Arctic and Antarctic interests, China’s modernised propaganda system, New Zealand-China relations and competing foreign policy interests in Antarctica. Her next book, due out in 2015, will be entitled China as a Polar Great Power.

Professor Kerry Brown

Kerry Brown is a leading authority on contemporary China in both Australia and the United Kingdom. He is currently Director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, where he is Professor of Chinese Politics. He is also an Associate Fellow of Chatham House, London, and a Senior Fellow at Nottingham University and the LSE. Earlier Professor Brown worked for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and at the British embassy in Beijing.

Professor Brown’s main specialities are the politics and society of modern China and its international relations. He has written, lectured and broadcast widely on these topics, his most recent books (both published this year) being Carnival China: China in the Era of Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping and The New Emperors: Power and the Party in China. He is also the chief editor of the widely praised Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography, also published this year.

Professor Jonathan Unger

Professor Jonathan Unger is a specialist on Chinese society, rural reform, factory life, nationalism and Cultural Revolution history. He has written and edited fourteen books on China as well as many articles and essays. His work Chen Village (co-authored with Richard Madsen and Anita Chan), a history of the Chinese revolution in one village which has been through several editions, is regarded as a modern classic.

Professor Unger is a Professor in the Political & Social Change Department of the Australian National University, Canberra. He is editor (with Anita Chan) of the China Journal, Canberra. He has served as a consultant on China for the Asia Development Bank and AusAID.

Professor Anita Chan

Professor Anita Chan is an authority on labour, labour conditions and labour rights in China and Vietnam. She is also a specialist in Chinese students and Cultural Revolution history. Her insights into the condition of the labour market in China have been praised for their depth and field knowledge. She has authored, co-authored and edited seven books and a hundred or so referee’d articles, including the classic Chen Village (see Jonathan Unger above).

Dr Chan is a Professor at the China Research Centre at University of Technology, Sydney and a Visiting Fellow at the ANU, Canberra. She is co-editor of the China Journal, Canberra.

Dr Stephen Noakes

Dr Stephen Noakes is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of Auckland specialising in contemporary China. His research interests include advocacy networks and civil society, as well as aspects of Chinese law. He is a regular commentator and writer on Chinese affairs for popular media and his research has been published in variety of academic journals.

Professor Xiaoming Huang

Professor Huang Xiaoming is Professor of International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington. He teaches East Asian politics, the international relations of East Asia and China's politics and international relations.

He has written extensively on East Asia's political economy, the economic development of China, and the international relations of Est Asia. His latest publications include Economic Development in Japan and China: Developmentalism, Capitalism and the World Economic System and China and the International System : Becoming a World Power.

Professor Huang is an editor of International Studies Perspectives and an active participant in public policy debate on China and East Asia. He was the founding Director of the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre, building the Centre into the focal point on contemporary China that it is today.

Professor Christine Wong

Professor Christine Wong is a noted authority in public finance and other aspects of the Chinese economy. She is Director of the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Melbourne, and was earlier Professor of Chinese Public Finance and Director of Chinese Studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies at the University of Oxford. She has also been the Henry M. Jackson Professor of International Studies at the University of Washington.

Professor Wong has also held senior staff positions in the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. She has authored and co-authored numerous books and scholarly articles on China’s public finance, including several World Bank studies. She is a member of the OECD Advisory Panel on Budgeting and Public Expenditures.

Professor Cai Fang

Professor Cai Fang is one of China’s best known economists. He is Director of the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at CASS (the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) in Beijing. He is a Member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People’s Congress.

Professor Cai has published numerous works on China’s economic and social reforms, including China Miracle: Development Strategy and Economic Reform, co-authored with Zhou Li and Justin Lin Yifu, former Chief Economist at the World Bank.

Professor Ligang Song

Professor Song Ligang, or Ligang Song as he sometimes known, is a respected specialist in the modern Chinese economy based at the Australian National University. He is Associate Professor and Director of the China Economy Program at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

Professor Song has published, lectured and spoken publicly on many aspects of China’s economic and financial reforms. He has authored, co-authored and edited a large number of books and articles on the contemporary Chinese economy, including more than a dozen books co-edited with Professor Ross Garnaut, one of Australia’s leading economists. Dr Song’s areas of expertise include environment and resource economics, econometrics and statistics, international economics and finance, and economic development and growth.

Professor Robert Ayson

Professor Robert Ayson is Professor of Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. A frequent commentator and broadcaster as well as the author of numerous books and articles on strategic affairs, Professor Ayson was Director of the Centre for Strategic Studies: New Zealand at Victoria University of Wellington from 2010 until 2014.

Professor Zhai Kun

Professor Zhai Kun is a senior scholar at one of China’s leading research centres, CICIR (the China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations). He is Director of the Institute of World Political Studies at CICIR, and earlier oversaw CICIR research on Southeast Asian and Oceanian studies. He has written and published widely on Chinese foreign affairs, including China’s relations with Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Dr Li-gang Liu and Mr Cameron Bagrie

Dr Li-gang Liu is Chief Economist, Greater China, for the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ). In 2012 he was named Economist of the Year by China Business News, Shanghai. Earlier he worked for the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the ADB and the World Bank. He has published widely in scholarly journals, and contributes to, Caijing and the Shanghai Securities Journal.

Mr Cameron Bagrie is the Chief Economist, New Zealand, for ANZ. Earlier he worked for the National Bank of New Zealand and the New Zealand Treasury. He is a frequent commentator on New Zealand economic and financial affairs.

Dr Marc Lanteigne

Dr Marc Lanteigne is a Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Victoria University of Wellington, and Senior Research Fellow and Director of Research at the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre. He specialises in Chinese politics and foreign policy and regional international relations. He has published extensively in his fields of interest and written three books including China’s Foreign Policy: An Introduction.

Mr John McKinnon

Mr John McKinnon is currently Executive Director of the Asia New Zealand Foundation. Earlier he was successively Director of the National Assessments Bureau, ambassador to China, Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Secretary of Defence. Starting in January 2015 he will serve a second time in Beijing as New Zealand’s ambassador to China.

Mr Peter Harris

Peter Harris is currently Acting Director of the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre. Earlier he was successively head of the Chinese Service of the BBC World Service in London, Representative for China of the Ford Foundation in Beijing, founding Director of the Asia 2000 Foundation (now Asia New Zealand Foundation) in Wellington, founding director of the Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) Asian Studies Institute, and Senior Fellow of the VUW Centre for Strategic Studies: New Zealand. In 2013 he was a Visiting Professor in the Foreign Studies School of Nanjing University, China.