Eminent China expert John Fitzgerald to deliver first Ramsay lecture for 2020

May 29, 2020 | Announcements, News & Media

Sydney, Friday 29 May 2020: With the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the role of civilisations has loomed large in global conversations surrounding the outbreak, spread and management of the virus.

To what extent can ancient Chinese civilisation be credited for China’s initial response to the virus and for its management of the crisis ? Is China’s Communist Party the institutional reincarnation of 3,000 years of civilisational development on Chinese soil?

And what does civilisation have to do with western countries’ responses? When the Covid-19 fog lifts, what is the way forward for Australia and China? How do we restore trust?

These are some of the many questions addressed by Swinburne University of Technology Emeritus Professor John Fitzgerald in his four-part Ramsay Lecture, ‘Trust in a time of pandemic: the use and abuse of civilisations’.

In this four-part lecture Professor Fitzgerald argues that while Covid-19 is often reported as a ‘test’ of civilisations, there are simpler, more contingent explanations for the arrival, spread and impact of the pandemic ‘that don’t require us to fall back on vague civilisational claims.’

East-west contrasts are not helpful, he says, because China’s Communist Party ‘deploys civilisational cover to maintain its monopoly on power, disarm its critics, and aspire to regional and in time global dominance.’

To understand China, Australian universities should sever all ties with China’s Ministry of Information and build independent system capacity in Chinese studies. And rather than adhere to China’s interpretation of trust, Australia should double down on its commitment to transparency, he says.

Professor John Fitzgerald is Emeritus Professor at the Centre for Social Impact, Faculty of Business and Law, Swinburne University of Technology. He served as President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities from 2015 to 2017. Before joining Swinburne, Professor Fitzgerald served five years as Representative of The Ford Foundation in Beijing where he directed the Foundation’s China operations.

Professor Fitzgerald’s research focuses on territorial government and civil society in China and on Australia’s Asian diasporas. His publications have won international recognition, including the Joseph Levenson Prize of the US Association for Asian Studies and the Ernest Scott Prize of the Australian Historical Association.

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation was created with an endowment from the late Paul Ramsay AO, founder of Ramsay Health Care, to promote a deeper understanding of western civilisation. The Ramsay Lecture series hosts speakers from all walks of life who have important and interesting perspectives relating to the world and our western heritage.

The recorded lecture will be available on this website in instalments starting from the week beginning 1 June 2020.

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/ sarah.switzer@ramsaycentre.org

For more information on the centre please visit our website: www.ramsaycentre.org