2018 CSRC Seed-funding Research Grant Scheme

Successful applicants

Dr Brooke Wilmsen, Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, ASSC

Inside China and Going Out: Demystifying the social risks and responsibilities of China’s Belt Road Initiative

When President Xi announced the Belt Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, it was portrayed as an infrastructure investment project that would better connect China to Asia and Europe.

In the intervening years, the variety of projects captured under the BRI banner has blossomed, as have the actors involved.

There is also growing interest in the implications of BRI for China, its partners and the region; with a particular interest in the geostrategic consequences, the debt it will generate for fragile economies and its challenge to the Bretton Woods institutions.

Others are concerned that BRI projects may lead to civil unrest and reignite historical conflicts.

While apprehension is warranted, whether these risks materialise will depend, in large part, on the quality of projects; whether they ‘pay for themselves’ by increasing productivity and bring benefits to local populations.

With this in mind, this project aims to investigate a specific subset of risks, namely, the risk that BRI projects will cause harm to local populations due to inadequate social and environmental protection standards.

Dr Jasvir Kaur Nachatar Singh, Early Career Development Fellow, Business School, ASSC

An Exploratory Study of Employment Perceptions of International Students in China

China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) international trade with 64 countries initiative has significant implications on the country’s international education agenda.

In 2016, there were around 442,773 international students studying in China where nearly half of the international student population is from these Belt and Road countries.

However, little is known on international students’ employment plans upon graduation and how are these international students enhancing their employability skills while studying at China best universities such as Tsinghua and Wuhan Universities.

Therefore, this project seeks to understand and explore international students’ employment perceptions with a particular focus on how human capital (knowledge, skills and know-how) acquired at Tsinghua University and Wuhan University will be applied at their future workplaces and how international students are navigating their international networks (social capital) in obtaining employment opportunities in China or elsewhere.

This project will contribute theoretically and empirical understanding of these employment trends, while also providing recommendations on enhancing and strengthening employability skills of international students in China to match with the needs of employment practices and policies.

Dr Yangbin Chen, Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, ASSC

Contemporary China Studies Journal Special Issue: The Constrained Connectivity: Geopolitics, Culture and Migration in Xinjiang and beyond under the New Silk Road Initiative

This project is an integral process for organising a special issue on Journal of Contemporary China (JCC) in 2018 or 2019, with a tentative theme as “The Constrained Connectivity: Geopolitics, Culture and Migration in Xinjiang and beyond under the New Silk Road Initiative”.

The purpose of this funding application will enable the editor of JCC, Professor Suisheng Zhao’s visit to Centre for China Studies, LTU, who has expressed interest in this publication proposal.

Suisheng Zhao is a Professor of Chinese politics and foreign policy at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies, an internationally well-known political scientist on contemporary China studies.

During his visit at China Centre from 2-3 August 2018, he will attend the New Silk Road publication symposium and will be invited to deliver a keynote speech on China Model and the One Belt and One Road Initiative.

Dr Premnadh M Kurup, Lecturer, School of Education, SHE

STEAM Education practice in China: seeking collaboration, partnership and possible exchange for our pre-service teachers

This proposal is to visit and develop a potential collaboration and partnership aimed at understanding and researching STEAM education practices in China.

The visit will include observations of current STEAM education practices. The proposed research study will be conducted amongst preservice teachers in South China.

This study is allied and mirrors current funded research projects being conducted by this interdisciplinary team of academics and teacher educators (Dr Prem Kurup, Dr Xia Li, Dr Mike Brown and Dr Greg Powell).

As visitors the La Trobe team will offer seminars to academics and teachers at Guangzhou on STEAM education in Australia.

This visit will allow the La Trobe academics to develop an exchange training program for the Chinese teachers to visit Australia and undertake tailored short term STEAM professional development and apply Columbo Plan funding for exchanges of pre-service teachers and a larger scale proposal on bi-lateral research on STEM teacher education.

Dr Dianhui (Justin) Wang, Reader and Associate Professor, School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, SHE

Deep stochastic configuration networks for data analytics in process industries

Deep learning as the most popular algorithm in machine learning has received considerable attention due to its power to extract semantic features from the hidden nodes of a deep learner model.

However, there exist several bottleneck issues in this framework to be further explored. For instance, the architecture of deep neural networks (DNNs) and learning parameters cannot be automatically determined by a given dataset through the learning algorithms; and the learning speed is quite slow to meet the real-time requirement for big data analytics.

In this project, we aim to develop a new deep learning framework to overcome these problems mentioned above, and technically contributes to the development of randomized learning techniques for data analytics in process industries.

This project focuses on both theoretical and practical aspects of convolutional stochastic configuration networks (C-SCNs), which are built on our previous studies on the randomized learning for feedforward neural networks.

Dr Gerald Roche, Senior Research Fellow, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, ASSC

Bridging Tongues: Linking Language Revitalization Communities in Australia and China

It is currently estimated that around half the world’s languages will disappear in this century.

Communities around the world, assisted by linguists, anthropologists, and other scholars, have begun addressing this issue through the practice of language revitalization, which aims to bring back languages that are no longer spoken, and to strengthen languages which have declining speaker numbers.

Although language revitalization solutions are always local, global networks that link communities and assist in sharing knowledge have proven to be essential to revitalization efforts around the world.

Compared to Australia, language revitalization is still an emerging field of theory and practice in China.

This project therefore aims to facilitate exchange between language revitalization practitioners and scholars in Australia and China.

On the basis of such exchange, we will pursue funding to establish a language revitalization project in cooperation with counterparts in China.

Dr Peter H Van Der Kamp, Lecturer, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, SHE

Joining Australian and Chinese forces in Discrete Integrable Systems

Discrete Integrable Systems are systems of lattice equations or multi-dimensional maps, which admit special mathematical structures and exact solutions.

Combining the Chinese expertise of researchers in Shanghai (knowledge of exact solutions, discrete integrable boundary) with the Australian expertise at La Trobe (integrals, initial values and periodic reductions of lattice equations to multi-dimensional maps) promises to continue strengthening La Trobe’s research reputation and expertise.

Dr Alexander E Davis, New Generation Network Scholar, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, ASSC

The Diverse Implications of China and India’s Competitive State-Making Projects in the Himalaya

This project examines the transformation of the Himalaya since the region became a site of competitive state-making between China and India in the mid-20th century.

It will trace the border regions’ development from a lightly-populated, high-altitude frontier to its contemporary status as a highly-militarised site of large-scale development projects.

Both the Indian and Chinese states have been gradually increasing their presence in their Himalayan frontiers, particularly since the region was the site of a border war in 1962.

By studying the Himalaya as a site of international politics, this project looks at IR from a bottom-up perspective, shifting the focus from strategic machinations in New Delhi and Beijing to the borderlands.

It seeks to think through the varied implications of state-to-state tensions, and the resultant military and development projects, for local and peoples and cultures, the environment, the watershed, and the border.

Dr Rhonda Hallett, Associate Professor, La Trobe Learning and Teaching

Building the Silk Road of knowledge: Fostering academic dialogue and exchange between China and Australia

The proposed project aligns with the Centre’s mission of promoting and advancing La Trobe University’s strengths in China by establishing a collaborative research partnership with academic developers at La Trobe University and at least one comparable institution in China.

The project will provide opportunities for dialogue about Academic Development (AD) practice and stimulate collaborative research of international significance in the field.

It will builds on existing work investigating the characteristics of academic development (AD) through a two-way exchange of issues and ideas and a series of comparative studies focused on different aspects of AD practice.

The project will identify key AD areas that can inform policies and practices supporting academics to achieve transformative learning and teaching in China and Australia.

This research collaboration directly addresses the University’s strategic goal of forging productive partnerships with its broad aim to improve collaboration in teaching and learning and thus increases the University’s presence in China.