2016 CSRC Seed-funding Research Grant Scheme

Successful applicants

Dr Ashley Franks (Lead CI), Eleanor Egidi and Wuxing Liu: Working Together: Fungal-plant Interactions for Improved Removal of Hydrocarbon Contamination from Soils

Research Project Summary

Remediating polluted soils is an impelling priority for many industrialised countries, including China and Australia. To meet this demand, new innovative ideas and methods are required. In collaboration with the Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing China, La Trobe University’s Applied and Environmental Microbiology Laboratory will investigate the structure and functional abilities of the hydrocarbon-degrading microbial community associated with contaminant-tolerant grasses. These interactions can be utilised to improve the removal of contaminants from soils by balancing naturally occurring microbes and with native grasses in an environmentally sustainable manor. This study will provide new insights for developing an efficient and environmental-friendly alternative for Chinese and Australian contaminated soils remediation using plants and their associated microorganisms.

Associate Professor James Leibold (Lead CI) and Dr Yangbin Chen: China Pivots West: Ethnic Contact & Conflict Along the New Silk Road

Research Project Summary

This project interrogates the tension (both physical and discursive) between interethnic contact and conflict along the eastern corridor of China’s “Silk Road Economic Belt” – a rugged and remote hinterland comprising 1/4 of Chinese territory. It will assemble a multidisciplinary team of international experts and Australia-based to explore how elements of ethnic, religious, cultural, and ecological diversity complicate statist narratives and projects in China, while analysing their implications for human security in the world’s largest nation-state. This application seeks funding for the first phase of this project: an international symposium at La Trobe, which in turn will lead to the following outcomes: 1) an iTunes U digital master-class on the eastern corridor of the New Silk Road; 2) a series of SSCI journal special issues on specific sub-themes related to interethnic contact and conflict; and 3) a research grant application to fund the second phase of this project.

Dr Lisa Tam (Lead CI), Dr. Chen Lyu, Dr. Soojin Kim, Dr. Jeong-Nam Kim: Gao Guanxi in China: A Model of Relational Public Diplomacy

Research Project Summary

Relational public diplomacy is a relationship (“guanxi”)-centered approach to reaching long-term goals in international relations – a country’s positive relationships with foreign publics could generate support for its foreign policies. The Chinese culture has been identified as being relations-oriented and values relationship cultivation (“gao guanxi”) for advancing organisation-public relationships. In response to calls for more empirical research on relationships in public diplomacy, this study advances the study of guanxi from the organisational level to the country level. In the context of relations-oriented China, this study examines how multilevel relationships (i.e., individual, organisational, country and international) contribute to Chinese publics’ overall relationship with a foreign country and explores the possible associations between relationships and supportive behaviours. With empirical data from China, this study proposes and tests a model to help public diplomats understand what constitutes guanxi in the Chinese context and how to best invest resources into building long-term relationships with Chinese publics.

Dr Nadia Rhook (Lead CI): Touched beyond Herbs: Chinese Medical Practice in Victoria, 1850-1900

Research Project Summary

The history of medicine in Australia has often been imagined as the exclusive domain of British and Australian-born white men. From the 1850s gold rushes, however, Chinese practitioners were part of the daily fabric of health and medical practice, and remained so even after the 1901 institution of the White Australia Policy effectively limited Chinese immigration. This research will challenge historic and contemporary stereotypes about Chinese doctors as ‘quack’ herbalists. Drawing on local stories from across Victoria, and thinking through and beyond the herbal, it aims to uncover new historical understandings about the role of Chinese practitioners. It will survey the activities of Chinese practitioners in the urban and regional centres of Melbourne, Bendigo, Ballarat and Ararat, from the mid to late 19th century. Doing so, it will identify ways in which European settlers and medical practitioners interacted with, contested, and benefited from, Chinese medical practice and knowledge.

Dr Debbie (Mei-Tai) Chu (Lead CI): Alibaba and Innovation

Research Project Summary

The leading question of this project is how Chinese companies accelerate innovation. Alibaba Group offers a good example as the Chinese ecommerce leader. Their distinctive capabilities to speed up innovation with large scale at low cost in e-business present both threats and opportunities to many mainstream competitors. Building on the literature, this study aims at identifying the relationships in knowledge sharing, service innovation capabilities and the moderating effect of organizational culture in three sites (Alibaba Headquarter, Alibaba Hong Kong and Alibaba Taiwan). Case study and in-depth interviews are used and followed by a conceptual model to signify the research variables and hypotheses. This study is influential to unpack the success of Alibaba Group to rethink or confirm the existing theories and practices of conventional innovation.

A/Professor Emiko Kashima (Lead CI),Professor Shihui Han, Dr Yang Li, Dr Ben Chun Pan Lam and Ms Chantal Vrielink: Existential Concern in Chinese and Australian Cultures: A Cultural Neuroscience Investigation

Research Project Summary

This project investigates the psychological and neural processes through which Chinese and Australian people deal with the issue of mortality. Modern Chinese and Australian attitudes towards death are believed to differ considerably, with Chinese people showing greater fear of death and avoidance of its discussion, which is deeply rooted in Chinese philosophies and tradition. Paradoxically, recent empirical research by psychologists has also shown that Asians tend to reveal lesser psychological reactions to deathreminding stimuli compared to Europeans, and moreover, neuroscience evidence has shown that collectivist worldviews that emphasise interdependence may help Asians to deal with death anxiety efficiently. In this Australia-China collaboration project, researchers aim to shed new light on the neural and psychological processes that mediate the relationship between fear of death and psychological reaction to death reminders from a cultural psychology perspective and by using sophisticated existential neuroscience approach.

A/Professor Chaojie (George) Liu (Lead CI), Dr Stephen Duckett and A/Professor David Legge: Capacity development for the use of case mix metrics for measuring and funding inpatient care in China

Research Project Summary

China face shortfalls in the efficiency of inpatient care and hospital funding generally. The Chinese Government has committed to three pilot projects to explore the use of casemix funding to improve hospital efficiency. A pre-condition for implementing case mix funding is an assessment of institutional preparedness and capacity building to ensure that the approach can be implemented effectively and safely. Our team is familiar with health care in China, has relationships with managers, academics and officials and is also well placed to draw upon Australian expertise in casemix funding. The China Health Economics Research Institute, has invited La Trobe to join the proposed pilot studies, both as a research partner and in the provision of professional development. This initiative will support the development of several research grant applications, directed to evaluating preparedness and planning for necessary capacity building.

Dr Rachel Winterton (Lead CI) and Irene Blackberry: Impacts of rural-urban migration among older adults in China

Research Project Summary

This project contributes to the geographical gerontology literature by exploring the motivations for, and experiences of, rural to urban migration among Chinese seniors. The numbers of rural older adults relocating to urban areas to access care from families, or to care for grandchildren is increasing in China, due to increasing rural-urban service inequity and family migration to cities for employment. However, government regulations relating to household registration (hukou) in China will impact significantly on the ability of older rural-urban migrants to access appropriate health and social care benefits in urban regions. This research explores how these regulations, and the changing nature of family care provision in increasingly modernised Chinese cities, will impact on the health and wellbeing of older rural-urban migrants. These findings will contribute to policy and practice debates on how health and wellbeing can be achieved for an increasing number of older Chinese migrants.

Dr Deborah Gleeson (Lead CI), A/Professor Chaojie (George) Liu and Anne-Maree Farrell: International trade agreements and pharmaceutical policy and regulation in China

Research Project Summary

Building on existing research strengths at La Trobe University and applying them in a new context, this project will investigate the potential implications of two mega-regional trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region for pharmaceutical policy and regulation in China. A policy analysis study will be undertaken examining potential impacts of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement for China’s health system and generic medicines industry. Senior Chinese health policy makers, health service managers and academics will be engaged in exploring the impacts of these trade agreements on China’s health system, and developing methods and baseline measures for future impact assessment through two workshops. Outcomes of this project will be a manuscript submitted to an international journal and a draft proposal for a competitive research grant.