25 May 2021

6-7 p.m. Tuesday May 25. Manning Clark Cinema. Kambri Cultural Centre. ANU

Bill Birtles, the ABC’s China correspondent, will be in conversation with Hugh White on Bill’s new book, The Truth about China, a compelling and candid examination of China, one that takes a magnifying glass to recent events, and looks through a telescope at what is yet to come.

 Bill Birtles was the ABC correspondent in China for five years. In September 2020, Bill was forced to seek refuge in the Australian Embassy in Beijing while diplomats delicately negotiated his departure from China in an unprecedented standoff with China’s government. His departure meant that there were no Australian foreign correspondents on the ground for the first time in decades.

Now, in The Truth About China, Bill shares for the first-time the details of his abrupt departure, and the very personal impacts. A journalist’s perspective on this rising global power has never been more important, as Australia’s relationship with China undergoes an extraordinary change that’s seen the detention of a journalist Cheng Lei, Canberra’s criticism of Beijing’s efforts to crush Hong Kong’s freedoms, as well as China’s military activity in the South China Sea and its human rights violations targeting the mostly Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang province.

Chronicling his five-year stint in China as he criss-crossed the country, Bill Birtles’s reveals why the historic unravelling of China’s relations with the West is perceived very differently inside the country. The Truth About China shares fresh, keen insights into Chinese-Australian relations.

Bill Birtles was educated at Canberra Grammar School and the University of New South Wales. He began a career in journalism, working for Triple J, but decided to start learning Mandarin and arrived in Beijing when he was 24 to work in a Chinese television newsroom. He subsequently worked for the ABC in Sydney and Melbourne before returning in 2015 to Beijing as the ABCs China correspondent.

Hugh White AO is Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University. His work focuses primarily on Australian strategic and defence policy, Asia-Pacific security issues, and global strategic affairs especially as they influence Australia and the Asia-Pacific. He has served as an intelligence analyst with the ONA, as a senior adviser on the staffs of Defence Minister Kim Beazley and Prime Minister Bob Hawke, and as a senior official in the Department of Defence, where from 1995 to 2000 he was Deputy Secretary for Strategy and Intelligence.. His major publications include Power Shift: Australia’s future between Washington and Beijing, [2010], The China Choice: Why America should share power, [2012], Without America: Australia’s future in the New Asia [2017], and How to defend Australia [2019]

Professor Richard Rigby, Emeritus Professor, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, will give the vote of thanks. Richard joined DFAT in 1975, where he worked until the end of 2001. His postings included Tokyo, Beijing (twice), Shanghai (Consul-General 1994-1998), London, and Israel (Ambassador, 2000-2001). He then joined ONA as Assistant Director-General, responsible for North and South Asia, before becoming the founding Executive Director, ANU China Institute in 2008.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, registration for this event is essential and social distancing must be adhered to. 

Signings will take place, both before and after the event, at the Harry Hartog Bookshop stand in the foyer.

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