China Studies Centre essay winner puts theory into practice

Second-year Government and International Relations student Sam Johnson in Bejing.

Second-year Government and International Relations student Sam Johnson in Bejing.

Winning a prize in an essay competition inspired second-year Government and International Relations student Sam Johnson to seek out first-hand experience of his subject matter.

The China Studies Centre’s essay competition Australia and China: Celebrating 40 Years of Diplomatic Relations was sponsored though a generous donation by Mr William Chiu, Chairman of the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification. It was also supported by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Xinhua News Agency, Sydney Bureau and the Australian New Express Daily.

The competition was designed to strengthen mutual understanding and future collaboration between young Australian and Chinese people. It drew 63 entries in Chinese and 39 in English from various cities in both countries. Sam Johnson won 3rd prize for his essay entitled Economic Interdependency, Regional Stability and Mutual Cooperation: The Future of Sino-Australian Relations.

Sam decided to use the prize money to help fund a trip to China. “I wanted to do something significant with the money that would both consolidate my knowledge and provide a further study opportunity,” he explains. “China had always intrigued me throughout my studies, but it was not until I entered the competition that my interest really grew. China’s history, culture and politics are incredibly fascinating topics of study.”

Sam travelled to Beijing first, and explored the city’s major tourist attractions including Tiananmen Square, before travelling with a tour group to the city of Xi’an, and then to the tiny town of Yangshuo, perched among the mountains.

For Sam, the scenic highlight of the trip was the Great Wall of China. “It’s simply astonishing, and seeing it wrap around the surrounding mountains and then disappear into the distance was breathtaking.”

But the spectacular scene was no match for Sam’s everyday encounters with people, which he describes as the most “invaluable” part of his travels. “I had many opportunities to discuss with locals the issues which I had addressed in my essay, such as the politics of China and its economy and Australia’s place in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Sam found that the people he met were equally willing to learn about Australian culture. “My tour leader, Evan, was from Xi’an. He and I were mutually interested in each other’s vastly different societies.”

Through both the essay and his travels, Sam has realised that economic interdependency between China and Australia is just the beginning of the two countries’ relationship. He is hoping to play a part in this collaborative future.

“I think the knowledge and skills I have taken away from this experience could help me in multiple career paths – business, media or perhaps public service.”

The full list of essay competition winners is available on the China Studies Centre’s website.