John Garnaut, Asia Pacific Editor, Fairfax Media

In Conversation with John Garnaut in Mumbai on June 23rd, 2014. (Asia Society India Centre)

MUMBAI, 23 June, 2014 -- The Asia Society, supported by the Australian Consulate in Mumbai, presented Australian journalist and author John Garnaut in conversation. Mr Garnaut, the current Asia Pacific editor of Fairfax Media, spent seven years living and working in China as a journalist, and offered his expertise and opinions to a rapt audience. Garnaut began his lecture with a discussion of the family history of the “new emperor” of China, current President Xi Jinping. Operating with the assumption that “history is a proxy for politics,” Garnaut took the audience through the history of Xi’s father, one of the revolutionary founders of the People’s Republic. The story of Xi’s father, Garnaut argued, and the factional battles which consumed his life as a politician, set the stage for Xi’s consolidation of power and his battle against the corruption of high level officials like Bo Xilai. The stronger Xi became as he consolidated authority, Garnaut held, the stronger the Chinese Communist Party became as a result.

After initially offering his thoughts on the implications of Xi’s rise to power and the impact of his family history, a lively discussion with the audience ensued. Attendees asked questions ranging from inquiries into Garnaut’s experiences working as a journalist in China to the veracity of Western accounts of Chinese misconduct in the South and East China seas. Garnaut replied that, because his work was entirely for foreign consumption, “not a word” of his writing was altered, but he faced significant restrictions on his movements in Western China. Regarding tensions in the South and East China seas, Garnaut expressed skepticism that China’s current aggressive path could allow it to truly claim superpower status, and that its actions were destabilizing. The event wrapped up with concluding remarks from Mark Pierce, the Australian Consul General.

Reported by Ben Rimland, Intern, Asia Society India Centre

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Supported By: Australian Consulate-General, Mumbai