Pseudo Echo or Chinese Whispers?

By Tom Parker

In 1973 at the height of the Cold War, Gough Whitlam became the first Australian Prime Minister to visit China. The visit included an unscripted audience with Chairman Mao, a signed trade deal to supply Australian sugar and a tour of the Great Wall. 

Whitlam also visited the circular Echo Wall in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, which surrounds the Imperial Vault with unique acoustic properties that allows a person whispering along the inner wall to be heard around the other side.

Whitlam hailed the visit a success and called it Australia’s own ‘long march’, a journey to redefine its relationship with China. 

Over the last 40 years, our relationship with our northern neighbour has gone through many iterations, culminating in the signing of the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) in 2015. From wool exports, Hu Yaobang visiting the Pilbara, Bob Hawke extending student visas following the aftermath of Tiananmen, sustained mining boom following China’s massive urban migration, to a Chinese-speaking Prime Minister, the Global Financial Crisis, Bobby the Bear and AFL games in Shanghai, our bilateral relationship has evolved since the days of Whitlam and Zhou Enlai. 

Today, China is Australia’s largest trading partner, largest source of migrants and international students, largest inbound tourism market. Globally, Australia is China’s second-most favoured country for accumulated overseas direct investment, experiencing year-on-year double digit growth. Importantly, this relationship is resulting in many Chinese calling Australia home. 

The Chinese community is Australia’s third largest migrant group behind the United Kingdom and New Zealand making up 4% of the population. They are one of the most well-established, highly educated communities in Australia with clear influence across many aspects of Australian culture contributing to the development of Australia’s multicultural society since the 1850s gold rush.  
The cultural influence and economic importance of China to Australia is unequivocal. 

Through ChAFTA, the advent of the digital economy and China’s increasing global presence, China has never presented as many opportunities for Australian businesses to commercialise the Australian brand. However, in today’s data driven business world, China market engagement is still too often underpinned by assumptions based on limited experience and exposure, or market reports written by China-based interns. As a result, Bastion Latitude in partnership with Bastion S&GO, is taking away the guesswork by creating an independent Australian-based, Chinese language, online insights community called The Echo Wall to assist Australian businesses to accelerate change, reduce risk and inform decision-making.

The size, role and importance of Chinese community in Australia is unmistakeable, and it’s time brands, companies and government had a channel to source and test the views and preferences of this community in order to better address their needs. 

For more details on The Echo Wall please contact Tom Parker or Diane Gardiner  

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