Rowan Callick |The party that ate China: the subsuming of a great culture

Apr 8, 2022 | Announcements, News & Media

Walkley Award winner and distinguished China commentator Rowan Callick OBE to deliver second Ramsay Lecture for 2022.

Sydney, Friday 8 April 2022: What do we know about China’s ‘marvellous civilisation’? The cultural treasures ‘…that have emerged over so many generations as a result of the genius of the people of China?’ To name a few: Confucius, China’s architecture, its epic fine arts and literary traditions, paper-making, silk, porcelain, gardens, costumes, its agrarian economy, its astronomical observations.

Is Chinese civilisation, developed over so many centuries, still thriving? Or has it become a memory, subsumed by ‘an extraordinarily pervasive and ambitious Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’ which claims to have ‘broken Western centrism…ushering the world along a new path to realise the common values of all humankind’?

To help foster an appreciation of true Chinese values and tradition and expose what he sees as the CCP creating its own ‘grim simulacrum of a civilisation’, distinguished China commentator Rowan Callick OBE will deliver our second Ramsay Lecture for 2022.

In his lecture Mr Callick lists examples of CCP manipulation of Chinese life to ensure its own survival. He discusses how CCP control over media and social media, national celebrations and events, education, and even printing presses have worked to suppress traditional elements of Chinese culture so that only party-friendly elements remain.    

Even Confucianism has been re-imagined into a political instrument, Mr Callick claims, so that it now only extols ‘…statements from the master that prescribed submission to the established authorities’, conveniently ignoring ‘precepts of social justice, political dissent and the moral duty for intellectuals to criticise the ruler even at the risk of their lives..’.

However despite CCP control over Chinese society, Mr Callick believes the will and genius of the Chinese population will ultimately see their civilisation survive.

“The party (CCP) has eaten China but it will not prove easy to digest,” Mr Callick says. “And China’s marvellous civilisation is being nurtured, if necessarily quietly or preferably silently, within the country by persevering scholars, artists and ordinary citizens, and overseas by people who are recreating it there.”

“We in Australia can play a part by helping to nourish the generation of independent information about China and the flourishing of free-ranging creativity by our own ethnic Chinese sisters and brothers here. That’s one way we can show who we are and what our civilisation is about.”

Mr Callick is an Industry Fellow at Griffith University’s Asia Institute. He previously worked for almost 20 years for The Australian Financial Review including as Hong Kong based China Correspondent. He also worked for The Australian, including two postings to Beijing as China Correspondent. He was Asia-Pacific Editor of both publications. He has won two Walkley Awards and the Graham Perkin Award for Australian Journalist of the Year. He has been published by The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy magazine, and The Times.

He has written three books, each published in English and Chinese, the most recent being Party Time: Who Runs China and How (Black Inc in Australia, and internationally by Palgrave Macmillan as “The Party Forever: Inside China’s Modern Communist Elite”).

Due to COVID-19 this Ramsay Lecture event has been recorded. It will be available via our website as both a video and podcast from Thursday 14 April.

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/