Australia-China Emerging Leaders Summit – Australia Summit 2016 Review

The Australia-China Emerging Leaders Summit (ACELS) is a Summit hosted by the Australia-China Youth Association (ACYA) with a foot in both Australia and China. ACELS began as a formal meeting of minds from the AYCA national executive in Sydney and has grown each year since. ACELS was held in China for the first time this year, launching in Shanghai in February.

At its heart, ACELS is an intensive three day conference combined with professional development and networking opportunities. The Summit’s purpose is to build the personal networks and leadership capabilities of ACYA members and leaders from the broader Australia-China network.

(ACELS Blog) Photo 1


This year’s Australia-China Emerging Leaders Summit is the second iteration of the Australian Summit in its current form, and was held in Sydney from the 29th to the 31st of July. Over the three days, sixty delegates from all corners of Australia and China flew to Sydney to “listen, learn, critique and discuss everything Australia China”.

So, what opportunities does the ACELS Australia Summit present to young students and professionals who want to lead in the Aus-China space?

Asia Options was invited by ACYA to cover the Sydney Summit, and presents a whirlwind summary below.


Friday – Westpac – Bangaroo

Vic Luo, Managing Director of ACYA Australia welcomed delegates to the Westpac Building in Barangarro. Vic introduced the Australia-China Emerging Leaders Summit Sydney project management team, and congratulated the sixty delegates on being selected form 200 outstanding applications.

The evening’s Keynote Address was by Cathy Monro, former China Liaison for the Australian Olympic Committee to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Cathy set the tone for the weekend, urging delegates to step out of their cultural comfort zones in order to develop nuanced understanding of other cultures.



Saturday – University of Sydney

Saturday was the first and longest day for the ACELS delegates, comprising six formal presentations with eight speakers, an afternoon of fruitful ACYA chapter planning and an evening of networking.

Seminar One: Matthew Benjamin of Asia Recon, and Peter Cai from The Lowy Institute covered prodigious ground in their morning seminar Entering the Chinese Market: Challenges and Opportunities for Start-Ups. Matthew and Peter both struck upon a common theme, emphasising that delegates should develop trust and relationships in order to plot a safe course through the business world in either Australia or China.


Peter Cai and Matthew Benjamin
“Social norms in China are layered and change from industry to industry and region to region. You need to invest in relationships to see your way through” – Matthew Benjamin (right)


Seminar Two: ACELS delegates were honoured to hear from Emeritus Professor Jeffrey Riegel. Director of the Chinese Studies Centre of the University of Sydney speak on Doing Business in the Australia-China Space: A Cultural Perspective. Professor Riegel drew upon his career in Australian and American academia to give delegates a historical context for contemporary Chinese business culture. The professor condensed his presentation into a series of apparent truisms:

– China is old
– China is big and complex
– China is diverse
– China is different

Seminar Three: Dai Le of DAWN, presented to delegates on Cultural and Gender Diversity within Innovation. Dai spoke from almost three decades of experience pushing for diverse leadership in Australia. She encouraged delegates to recognise the Bamboo Ceiling as a real barrier for Asian leaders in many industries. Dai pointed to fields like fintech, ICT and online media to show the success of fields that accept diverse talent. Afterwards Dai discussed with delegates the reasons why talented leaders leave certain positions when they aren’t recognised by ‘traditional’ leadership structures.

That evening, delegates made their way to the Sofitel Sydney for the evening’s function – a panel discussion and networking with representatives from PwC, Alibaba Australia and Hainan Airlines. ACELS delegate, Haylee Han, attended the networking evening and reported to Asia Options:

The panel shared reflections on Australian merchandise in China, Chinese corporate investment in Australia and cross-cultural comprehension. Notably, Ms Zhao introduced the traditional Chinese social contextual concept of ‘Jiānghú’ (江湖), which is comparable to the Western concept of a social network. This raised an energetic discussion which concluded that in this day and age we are all in the web of a Jiānghú social network.

I was truly impressed and touched by local delegates’ enthusiasm for Chinese language and culture – Haylee Han, ACELS Sydney delegate

As an international student from China studying in Melbourne, during the networking evening, I was truly impressed and touched by local delegates’ enthusiasm for Chinese language and culture. It reminded me to cherish my cultural identity more. The friendships I’ve made with with these local friends will always inspire me to continue to explore Australia’s vibrant multicultural society.

Undaunted by another full day on Sunday, ACELS delegates hit the Sydney night life, cementing friendships over fine food and karaoke.


Sunday – University of Sydney

Workshop Shot Trimmed

On Sunday, the Australia-China Emerging Leaders Summit challenged delegates in new ways and revealed the depth of experience, skills and creativity of the ACYA network. Teams of delegates were put through their paces in event management and project management morning workshops. Afterwards, each chapter made micro presentations on their events, plans and hopes.

ACYA Nanjing Trimmed


David Kral, ACYA Nanjing president, shared how the Nanjing chapter is both a landing pad for Australians studying and working in Nanjing, and also increasingly a first port of call for local Chinese students who are looking at living in Australia.

Victor Lau, Haylee Han and Adele Thielke of ACYA Deakin presented that although fewer than one in ten students at the university are an international student, international students make up 70 per cent of the chapter’s members. This groundswell has allowed them to bring new ideas and new voices to their executive level.

Within the larger ACYA network, the ACYA Victorian Bilingual Competition is notable for growing as a collaboration both between and separate from ACYA chapters. ACYA VIC BLC, now in its second year, is a language competition that celebrates the Chinese-English bilingual skills of Victorian tertiary students. The BLC has even produced a series of YouTube videos on cultural differences between Australia and China, including some with with Chinese WeChat media outlet Melbourne Today.

ACYA Vic BLC Aussies v Chinese Food

Meanwhile, selected delegates were able to sit interviews for the HNA Group 2017 Global Talent Management Program. The group found no shortage of Asia-literate delegates interested in its program. Many delegates reported that the interview was a great extra opportunity presented by ACELS.

ACELS culminated with the anticipated presentation by the Hon. Bob Carr, now director of the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney. Bob presented delegates with a fantastically rich summary of the Australia-China relationship. Afterwards, ACYA Australia Manager, William Zhao, sat down with Bob for an insightful question and answer session.

The Australia-China Emerging Leaders Summit Sydney closed on a high note – a group photo with Bob, showing delegates in all stages of excitement, exhaustion and inspiration.

Bob Shot 2


Over two and a half days, ACELS squeezed in a great variety of events and workshops, with unprecedented chances to hear and be heard by foremost Australia China leaders. As delegates bid each other farewell on Sunday afternoon, the overwhelming feeling was that ACELS had given delegates tools and connections to start out on their own path of becoming Australia China leaders.

The delegate fee for the Australia-China Emerging Leaders Summit 2016 Sydney was $125 AUD, and covered twin accommodation at a central three star hotel, attendance at the professional networking night at the Sofitel Sydney and catering at ACELS forums and workshops. Delegates covered their own flights and dinners on the Friday and Saturday evenings.

Asia Options has covered the Australia-China Youth Association extensively including what it’s like to volunteer for ACYA, the ACYA Victoria Bilingual Language Competition, ACELS Shanghai and the ACYA-Austrade Internship in Taiwan.

Find out more about how to get involved with ACYA, and see where you can go if you Add China and want to study in China.


Bob Carr, Cathy Monro and Peter Cai/Matthew Benjamin photos credited to Jack Williams

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Will Breedon

Will graduated from Monash University with degrees in Economics and Arts (Mandarin) and studied at Soochow University as a Hamer Scholar.

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