The Career Pathways in the Study of Asia series aims to help demystify potential career pathways for those engaged in the study of Asia, particularly at an early stage. First in the second part of this series is Professor David S G Goodman. Professor Goodman is the Director of the China Studies Centre, University of Sydney, where he is Emeritus Professor of Chinese Politics.
How did you become interested in studying Asia?
I went to university as an undergraduate and there were some excellent teachers of Chinese history and politics.
What was your first academic job and how did your career progress from there?
I started university work as a Research Fellow at the Contemporary China Institute at SOAS London in September 1971. After that I was in the Department of Politics at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne from 1974 before coming to Australia in 1987 when appointed to a Professorship in Asian Studies at Murdoch University. In 1994 I moved to Sydney to found the Institute for International Studies at UTS. I started at the University of Sydney in January 2009 and helped found the China Studies Centre. I was based in China from 2012 until 2021 though I had left the University of Sydney in the middle of 2015. I was on the staff at Nanjing University 2012-2016, and at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou from 2014-2021. In 2021 I returned to the University of Sydney and the China Studies Centre.
What is the focus of your academic teaching and research now?
My academic interests focus on social and political change in China. In particular, I am interested in non-central and local government; and state-society relations, especially the involvement and development of entrepreneurs.
I have two current research projects. One is concerned with the development and implementation of the policy goal of local social governance in China. In particular, it looks at policy implementation in Suzhou, Lanzhou, and Taiyuan. The other is looking at individual and social change in China. This is a collaborative project involving a large number of authors across the world who will meet at a workshop in order to produce an edited volume on Gender, Intimacy, and Class.
My recent publications include the Handbook of Local Governance in China (with Ceren Ergenc) 2023; and Class and the Communist Party of China, 1921-2021 2 volumes (with Marc Blecher, Yingjie Guo, Jean-Louis Rocca, Tony Saich, Beibei Tang) 2022.
What has been one career highlight?
Establishing the first (and so far the only) undergraduate Department of China Studies in a university in the People’s Republic of China, at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou. Planning for the Department started in 2013 and the Ministry of Education approved the project in early 2014. The first undergraduate cohort graduated in 2018. The Department has a taught postgraduate program in China Studies in addition to the BA program, and supervises research students reading for a PhD.
What is the best part about your job as an academic with expertise on Asia?
There are always new things to find out about China, its society and development; and there are always people outside universities who find the kind of knowledge I have both interesting and useful.
What piece of advice would you give to your students keen to build a career as an academic in Asian studies?
Remember that societies and political systems are different. One size does not fit all. And perceptions of those differences are everything. Understand and respect the importance of difference and interpretation, both in your own society and elsewhere.