Feature: Australian scholar's deep bond with China spanning half a century

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CANBERRA, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Australian sociologist David Goodman could always recall the newspaper which was used to wrap up a lunch of fish and chips half a century ago from a Chinese restaurant in Britain, saying that the coincident suggested his connection with China was "meant to be."

During the past 40 years, he lived in many Chinese cities, from Suzhou in the east to Lanzhou in the northwest, from Taiyuan in the north to Chengdu in the southwest.

"I like to see different parts of China," he said in an interview with Xinhua, adding that the scenery is breathtaking and people are kind.

Goodman, 74, said he was from a left-wing family in Britain, where he had relatives who were communists.

He remembered that in the 1960s when he studied in the University of Manchester, he once bought lunch from a Chinese restaurant, finding that the fish and chips were wrapped up in the Chinese newspaper Wen Wei Po. He could not read Chinese characters at that time, but was fascinated by the pictures on it.

As an undergraduate student, he specialized in Chinese policy. "I got more and more interested and by the time I finished, I decided I had to go to China and do a PhD on China."

Goodman first visited China in 1976. "It fascinated me. Many things were different from what I expected: the range of different kinds of people, the kindness of people," he said.

After learning Mandarin in the Beijing Language and Culture University, then known as the Beijing Language Institute, he studied economics at the Peking University.

"It was very good, great fun. And I learned a lot," he said.

He then went back to teach in Britain before an opportunity found him: the University of Newcastle started an exchange program with a university in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi in north China, which brought him to the city.

"That began the love affair with Shanxi," Goodman said. He did a lot of research in Shanxi over the years and wrote books about it. He wrote not only about the contemporary development, but about the coal-rich province during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression in the 1930s and 40s, and the rise of the Communist Party of China.

The professor moved to Australia in 1987, but his love for China continued.

During the interview, he talked about the noodles and wedding tradition in Shanxi, beautiful view of upper reaches of the Yellow River in west China's Qinghai province, as well as Suzhou in east China's Jiangsu province where he used to cycle a lot.

He also received many gifts from his Chinese friends, with one of them being a paper-cutting that featured the Chinese zodiac animals with his name in Chinese characters. It is still on a wall in his house.

During these years, Goodman saw the changes in China. A photographer himself, he used to take photos in the 1970s, and go back to the same spot 30 or 40 years later, during which period the roads became broader and tall buildings mushroomed. "Physically there have been huge changes," he said.

"In the 1978 when the Reform and Opening-up started, everybody outside China said 'very nice idea, but it's not possible to develop China that quickly'," he continued, noting that in fact China grew faster than they had anticipated.

"If there is such a thing as social science, it has to incorporate the experience of China, and not tell China what it should be doing," said Goodman. "You can't assume the phenomena you see occurring in China fit the 'standard pattern', social or economic behavior that you get everywhere else in the world."

Now the Director of the China Studies Center in the University of Sydney, Goodman has called for better China-Australia relationship, denouncing those who "want to politicize fear of China so that they gain an opportunity from it."

After the federal election in Australia last month, he, together with 14 other senior scholars from Australian universities, issued an open letter.

"The change in the government presents the opportunity for a circuit breaker in the poor diplomatic relations that have developed between Australia and China in the recent past," said the letter.

"As professors of China Studies who undertake research on various aspects of China's society and politics, we acknowledge that the new government is likely to avoid the over-aggressive approach of its predecessor. In our view less public aggression is likely to be more effective in dealing with China: international engagement should replace the language of war."

Talking about the open letter, Goodman said: "We were alarmed by the manner in which the previous government approached the issue of China. It didn't seem to us to be very productive."

"Our message to the government is to depend more on diplomacy, and less on public statements, which are very outrageous," he said. "Talk to China, talk to the Chinese government and have the Chinese government talk to you, and see if we can work out what differences there are."

While hoping that the relationship between China and Australia could be restored, Goodman looked forward to going back to China soon.

"I'm doing a research project on common prosperity and local social governance with two Chinese friends," he said. "I want to go back as quickly as possible." Enditem

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