"Events like ACELS, which unite passionate and talented youth in the Australia-China space, are essential to nurture the future of the bilateral relationship." - The Hon. Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs

The Australia-China Emerging Leaders Summit (ACELS) is the signature initiative of the Australia-China Youth Association (ACYA). This year ACELS returned to Beijing from February 22 to 25 supported by a $20,000 grant from the Australia-China Council. Over four days, 70 delegates (half from China, half from Australia) gathered for an intensive series of panel discussions, workshops and interactive activities under the theme: "Broadening the Bilateral: Embracing a New Asian Paradigm".

Day one provided an opportunity for the delegates (from 20 Chinese provinces/regions and 6 Australian states/territories) to get to know each other. We kicked off with some ice-breakers and the 'Amazing Hutong Race', followed by a traditional Chinese meal and acrobatics performance.

ACELS Delegates spent the afternoon running around the Hutongs completing various tasks - taking dips in Houhai, interviewing locals and eating scorpions amongst them!

ACELS BJ18 was officially opened on day two at the Australian Embassy in Beijing with a speech from Australia's Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, Jan Adams AO PSM.

Ambassador Adams noted that Australia-China ties, at both the macroeconomic and grassroots people-to-people level across all fields, were are strong as ever.
“The people-to-people connections between Australia and China are the real strength of the relationship...ACELS is a particularly important part of that, because we need young leaders to have full exposure to each other in China and Australia to keep improving and expanding these networks.” - Jan Adams, Australia's Ambassador to the People's Republic of China

Soon afterwards the first panel discussion was underway, on the topic of ‘Geopolitics, Trade and Responsible Investment’. Panellists included Minister Counsellor (Economic) at the Australian Embassy Liz Peak, Founder of China Policy Philippa Jones, Australia-China economic relations researcher Prof. Hu Dan, and Thomson Reuters political correspondent Phil Wen. Critical areas in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, were discussed in detail in a multilateral, forward-looking framework.

"From this session I gained a deeper understanding about the close relationship between Australia and China. The workshop was a great chance to discuss with other delegates and share different perspectives on geopolitics and trade." - Bonita Wang, Chinese Delegate

Day two continued with a Peking Duck lunch and an afternoon workshop series on "Environment, Renewables and Clean Energy", during which China's shift away from coal toward alternative energy sources was discussed in depth, including the impact this would have on Australia. John Monash Scholar, FASIC Scholar and Environmental Engineering PhD candidate at Tsinghua University Kate Smith moderated an afternoon of appearances by senior figures including Sino Gas & Energy CEO Glenn Corrie, China Carbon Forum Research Manager Huw Slater, and China Policy Energy Researcher Yang Yuchen.

"The panel offered the audience some insightful and thorough points on environmental protection and energy reform in China." - Bingbing Young, Chinese Delegate

The day came to a conclusion with the ACELS BJ18 Cocktail and Networking Evening at King and Wood Mallesons (KWM). Delegates had the opportunity to connect with older professionals and senior figures in companies ranging from Google, Canva, the New York Times and KPMG to Alibaba, HNA, China Policy and the New Hope Group. Foreign Legal Consultant at KWM Tom Harrison delivered an address on behalf of the venue sponsor, encouraging the delegates to continue learning more about each others' cultures and people.

"Almost four hours into the evening, the room was still bubbling with energy and excitement. It seemed like nobody wanted to leave." - Liam Kearney, ACELS Project Manager

Day three featured intimate discussion of children's welfare and philanthropy with keynote presentations by Dr. Joyce Hill AM & Robin Hill MBE of the New Hope Foundation, and Director of the Stars and Rain Institute for Autism Sun Zhongkai. UNICEF Education Officer Lisa Qin then joined for an interactive discussion touching topics such as NGO regulation and the future of philanthropy in China. KPMG Global China Practice Manager Alfredo Montufar-Helu addressed the delegation on behalf of the venue sponsor.

"Delegates were truly inspired by the work of the forum's speakers...and contributed their own valuable insights during the Q&A session." - James Phillips, Australian Delegate

Day three then moved to the Hatchery co-working space and continued with a keynote by Baidu's Cun Dong on the future of information technology and content creation (presented in Chinese with simultaneous translation). Delegates then had an interactive discussion of innovation and youth entrepreneurship with Counsellor for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science at the Australian Embassy Joanna Bunting, Imprint Capital Partner and VC specialist Curt Shi, and Google Industry Lead Cindy Gottinger, moderated by TechNode.com's Linda Lew. The panellists then judged an interactive competition as delegates pitched ideas for digital disruption in teams.

"With panellists representing a broad cross-section of the sector from government to VC to Google, we as delegates were able to learn about shaping the future of bilateral entrepreneurship from a diverse set of experiences." - Michael Zhou, Australian Delegate

ACELS Beijing 2018 culminated with the Gala Dinner held at TRB Copper. Senior figures from the Australian Embassy including Minister Counsellor (Commercial) and Head of Austrade Dan Tebbutt, Minister Counsellor (Economic) Liz Peak, and our keynote speaker for the evening Minister Counsellor (Education & Research) Katherine Vickers, who spoke about the massive scale and fruits of educational collaboration and exchange between our two countries.

Delegates also had the opportunity to connect with senior figures in the private sector including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Standard Chartered, Baidu, CPA Australia and the Australian Studies Center at Peking University. Three delegates told stories of close friendship, learning and inspiration brought through ACELS BJ18.

"The night helped us all to fully appreciate the importance of the bilateral relationship; it was an opportunity for young people to engage with leaders that bridge the Australia-China divide, and reflect on a very busy ACELS." - Alistair Kitchen, Australian Delegate
"These past few days have opened my eyes to the many aspects of the unique relationship between Australia and China. I feel inspired to continue learning about and contributing to this bilateral relationship." - Jingjing Ge, Chinese Delegate

After a tremendously successful four days made possible by the Australia-China Council's generous funding and support, ACELS Beijing 2018 concluded with a panel stressing "Arts, Culture and Soft Power" as mediating forces of the bilateral relationship. The panel was held at the Red Gate Gallery in Beijing's 798 Art District, with guest speakers including Counsellor (Public Affairs and Culture) at the Australian Embassy Maree Ringland, Red Gate Gallery Founder Brian Wallace, EM Deputy Director and Former CGTN reporter Laura Luo, and China Product Placement Founder and Director Jade Diep.

"The panellists noted that art and culture help eliminate stereotypes - the fall of barriers between people's hearts is the first step toward the fall of barriers between two countries. ACELS has indeed drawn to an impressive conclusion." - Eren Wang, Chinese Delegate

Feedback from delegates, Australian Embassy representatives and industry leaders was overwhelmingly positive. They emphasised the value of ACELS in bringing together the next generation of leaders in the Australia-China space, continuing important and topical discussions, and providing a vehicle for youth to share ideas and seize opportunities for further personal and professional development.

"We recognise the valuable work that the Australia-China Youth Association (ACYA) is doing in China to provide a platform for engaging the future leaders in this space." - Vaughn Barber, AustCham Beijing Chair, Global Chair, KPMG Global China Practice

Special thanks to our sponsors and partners: the Australia-China Council, the Australian Embassy in Beijing and the New Colombo Plan, King & Wood Mallesons, KPMG China, Red Gate Gallery, TRB Copper and Model APEC.

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