Driving two-way engagement with Asia

A newspaper headline in 2012 described Professor Ying Zhu as “the Asia advocator”. Today he might more accurately be called an Asian facilitator.

Under his leadership, UniSA’s Australian Centre for Asian Business (ACAB) has evolved quickly from primarily helping Australian governments and companies do business in Asia to supporting the two-way engagement and exchange of ideas that will lead to even more business.

With ACAB colleagues he is a regular visitor to China, in particular, where they collaborate on issues as diverse as urban development, social policy and health care. A strong relationship has been built with the prestigious Beijing Normal University, including the creation of a joint centres looking at issues of social governance.

“The Chinese are interested in how Australia is approaching common issues such as aged care, education and migrant workers, and in how we develop public/private partnerships,” he said. “China used to rely just on government, but now it’s about multiple stakeholders.

“I’m doing a lot of research on labour and human resources and sustainable development and others here are doing work on accounting, performance management and social investment return. So we have a number of people that we can bring together.”

Industry and government engagement has not been forgotten, however. Prof Zhu works closely with state and local governments and individual businesses to provide up-to-date information on the economic, political and social environment in Asia, as well as focused business coaching and strategy development.

He is regularly asked to help companies understand how to approach visits to China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia, how to present themselves, and how to work together to take advantage of the many opportunities becoming available as Australia signs Free Trade Agreements with key partners.

His background gives him a view of international business from all sides. After graduating in international economics from Peking University, he helped develop new ventures in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone before moving to Australia. He has since held visiting scholar positions with the World Bank, the International Labour Organization and the University of Cambridge.

More recently, he was a member of the Expert Panel which helped guide the preparation of a landmark report examining Australia’s workforce asia capability.