China in the Pacific

GraemeSmithCentre for Contemporary Chinese Studies Seminar Series – University of Melbourne

By the numbers: An ethnography of China’s outbound direct investment in the Pacific
Dr Graeme Smith, Australian National University

5.30pm, Thursday 15 October September 2015,
Room 321, Level 3, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, University of Melbourne

Taking recently-released trade and investment data as a starting point, this talk will examine changes in China’s trade flows and outbound direct investment (ODI) in the South Pacific over the past decade. Official statistics, particularly for ODI, cannot be relied upon. Yet they provide pointers to explain changing trends in China’s economic engagement with the region. China’s economic presence in the Pacific is often assumed to parallel its engagement with other emerging economies in Latin America and Africa, but the numbers suggest some Pacific peculiarities. The talk will then examine three important sectors of China’s economic engagement with the region—extractive industries, retail, and construction—and attempt to map out the dynamics of various Chinese actors’ current and future interactions with Pacific nations.

Graeme Smith is a research fellow in the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program at the Australian National University and a visiting fellow at Sun Yatsen University’s Centre for Oceanian Studies. His research has explored the demand for organic produce in Chinese urban centres, the political economy of agricultural service delivery, the role of rural cadres in China’s development and the persistence of informal land markets in rural China. He also studies Chinese investment and migration in the Asia-Pacific region, with ongoing projects in Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Tonga, Samoa and Myanmar. His journal articles appear in China Journal, Pacific Affairs, Journal of Contemporary China and Journal of Peasant Studies. Dr Smith holds a PhD in environmental chemistry, has written several guidebooks to China, and is the 2011 winner of the Gordon White Prize for the best article published in China Quarterly, the leading journal in China Studies. He recently completed a UNDP report making recommendations for how traditional aid donors could best engage with Chinese actors in the Pacific.

Admission is free, but registration is essential. Please email

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