In conversation with James Curran

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James Curran will be in conversation with John McCarthy on James's new book Australia's China Odyssey. From Euphoria to Fear. Australia's relationship with China is one of the dominant geopolitical stories of our times. The need to understand the tectonic forces of history moving beneath the surface of these critical events has never been more pressing.

In Australia's China Odyssey, acclaimed historian James Curran explores this crucial and complicated relationship through the prism of the prime ministers who have handled relations with Beijing since Whitlam in 1972.

Much recent analysis assumes that managing China has been difficult only since 2017. Yet this relationship has always been difficult. And while there have been moments of euphoria and uplift - moments, even, when some believed Australia could have a 'special relationship' with China - high anxiety and fear have often trailed closely in that slipstream. This book provides historical ballast to a debate so often mired in the parochialism of the present.

While there is justifiable alarm concerning the course of Beijing's aggressive and authoritarian nationalism, Australia's China Odyssey asks whether we have the courage to look in the mirror and see what this debate also reveals about Australia. Reflecting on the 2022 change in government in his postscript, Curran tackles an even harder question: the future of Australia's China policy.

'Absorbing and compelling...written with flair and balance.' - Peter Varghese

'A sharp analysis of contemporary events interwoven with a deep sense of the historical threads.' - Dennis Richardson

James Curran is Professor of Modern History at Sydney University and a fortnightly columnist on foreign affairs for the Australian Financial Review. A former Fulbright scholar at Georgetown University, he previously worked at the Office of National Assessments, and in the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Defence. He is the author of a number of scholarly books and articles on Australian foreign affairs and political culture.

John McCarthy AO is Vice Chancellor's fellow, Melbourne University and a former Australian career diplomat.. His posts include Ambassador to Vietnam, Mexico, Thailand, the United States, Indonesia and Japan and High Commissioner to India. He has honorary doctorates from Murdoch and Griffith Universities.

Allan Behm, Director, International & Security Affairs Program at The Australia Institute, will give the vote of thanks. He was senior advisor to the then Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Penny Wong (2017-19).

This event is in association with Harry Hartog Bookshop. Books will be available for purchase on the evening in the Cultural Centre foyer. Pre-event book signings will be available from 5.30pm, and available again after the event.


Date and Times


Room: Cinema