13 March 2014

Director of the China Research Centre (University of Technology Sydney)

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 Current positions

  • Director of the China Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney, since 2010
  • Professor of Chinese Studies, University of Technology Sydney, since 2010
  • Faculty member of Summer School TOChina, University  of Turin


  • Degree in East Asian History, Faculty of Liberal-arts, University of Bologna, 1983-1988
  • MA, Chinese Language and Culture, Tongji University, Shanghai, 1988-1989
  • Ph.D. in History and Institutions in modern and contemporary Asia and Africa, Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Cagliari, 1992-1996
  • Post-Doc, Historical studies about China, University of Bologna, 1999-2001
  • Post-Doc, Studies about China, Brown University, 2001

Research Interests

I’m interested in working with students. I’m interested in China, I’m interested in having a connection to China and a discourse with Chinese people, a real and total connection: helping people and ourselves understand Chinese culture, Chinese history and having mutual respect. It’s a critical connection which leads people to analyze certain topics and understand in depth the phenomenon which seems to be suddenly exploding, which I usually refer to (ironically) as “China is the news”. Because it is actually a cultural, political and economic phenomenon, on a global scale.

Working hours p/w on average

According to my contract I have to work 35 hours per week. However, as a Director, I work more than 40 hours per week and besides that is all the part of the research. In total I work more than 80 hours per week.

Entry level salary

I started as Ph.D. and I was paid 800,000 liras per month (I think around 400 euros. I left Italy before euro was adopted so I’m not sure about the conversion).

When and how did you develop an interest in your academic field? When did you realize your career path was correct for you?

I have always been interested in China, since I was a child. My parents were teachers at primary school and they never had the opportunity to travel around the world. They had studied Science of Education (which was called Pedagogy at the time) at the University of Bologna to become teachers at primary school. Therefore there was a strong amount of Western culture in my family, texts written by Greek and Latin authors and all the Italian literature and panorama of European history. However, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve always been very interested in Eastern religions and philosophies (Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism already attracted me when I was at high school), so when I entered university I felt the need to do something complimentary to the tradition of my family in which I was raised. I felt the need to go beyond the Eurocentric panorama. I felt something was missing. Therefore I started studying Eastern Philosophy and History. And at that point I realized it was obviously necessary to learn the languages to understand it better.

I think I inherited my passion for teaching from my parents, who were both teachers at primary school. My generation is very different from my parents’ in terms of opportunities – my parents were teenagers during the Second World War. My mother’s dream was to see her three children go to University, and possibly one of them work as a professor (since this was seen by her generation as the climax of the teaching hierarchy). I have never seen this as a matter of prestige, money, or materiality however. What I have always looked for is to gain a sense of critical inquiry, knowledge and understanding of different cultures, to interact with students, to leave something to future generations, in the sense of sharing my knowledge about what I studied. For this reason I feel a bit unsatisfied in my current position. Since I am the Director of a China Centre, I have to deal with paperwork most of the time. Nevertheless, I have always tried to work with the students in all of the universities that I have worked in, and to maintain an active research agenda.

Which extracurricular experiences at university did you find useful for choosing your main field of interest? Which postgraduate experiences have you found were most helpful during a job interview?

I have always worked since I was 14 years old. I worked and studied at the same time in order to earn a living. When I was at university, the Erasmus project did not exist yet, however I had several experiences which were useful to my academic career. In 1984, for instance, I applied for a scholarship offered by Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice, so I could take part in a specialized course about historical subjects. That was an exciting experience: I received a scholarship and during the summer in Venice, I spent a month attending courses with famous historians from all over the world. Then I spent two summers (1985 and 1986) in London, working as a waiter and conducting the preliminary research at the library of the SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) that helped me to write my BA thesis. It might sound strange, but it was in London that I started thinking about my graduation thesis and my future research, between waiting tables and reading books in the wee small hours of the morning. In 1987 I applied for a scholarship at the University of Hull, which had a great South-East Asian Studies Centre. I received the scholarship for a sort of pre-Erasmus during the beginning of 1988. After that, I went to China thanks to a scholarship offered by the Italian Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Ministry of Education.

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