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Fan of the opera

Updated: 2016-05-13 08:35:46

( China Daily )

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Mackerras' connections to China have lasted for about five decades. He has made friends in the country and his son, Stephen, is the first Australian born in New China in 1965.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Last year, he received the Special Book Award of China for foreign authors, translators and publishers who make significant contributions to China's literary and cultural exchanges with other countries.

He also continues to work on papers about China's ethnic groups and general social changes.

"People are living a richer life, not only materially but also spiritually. They are more open and confident than before," Mackerras says, adding that in the '60s, he couldn't have imagined the country's rapid transformation.

He has also documented the changing attitudes of the West toward China.

In Western Images of China Since 1949, he chronicles the background and reasons behind that change, placing them in context of the ground realities he experienced.

While he tries to bring different perspectives with his writings, he says the process isn't easy.

"I still think there are a lot of misunderstandings about China in the West," he says. "When the West looks at China, it is not entirely about the reality here but often more about their own politics."

In many ways, Mackerras, who has been involved in academic and cultural exchanges between China and his home country, is a pioneer in bringing people together.

He has established the Chinese Studies Association of Australia to boost such exchanges.

In 2007, Mackerras received one of Australia's highest awards for helping education and Sino-Australian ties.

He is a founding member of the School of Modern Asian Studies at Griffith University on the Australian east coast, where he has worked since mid-1970s.

Mackerras says there has been significant improvement in the relationship between the two countries. While exchanges in culture and education have been growing fast, China has also become Australia's top trading partner.

In 2014, Mackerras received the Friendship Award, the highest honor given by the Chinese government to foreigners who have made significant contributions to the country's social and economic development.

His life experience in China was noted by President Xi Jinping when he visited Australia that year.

During a speech at the Australian parliament, Xi thanked Mackerras for his contribution to the mutual friendship and especially mentioned Mackerras' 51-year-old son, who has the unique distinction of being the first Australian to be born in New China.

"I feel very proud about it," Mackerras says, smiling.

"Although I have no concrete plans, I hope I can come back to China again and again."

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