Former Australia Ambassador to China, Geoff Raby now provides consultancy to companies on doing business in China, and Chinese company on their going-out strategy. Here is his recent interview at The Australian:
Raby describes this new path as his third career, having entered the diplomatic service from the academic world. He has a Bachelor of Economics, a Master of Economics and a PhD from Melbourne’s La Trobe University. “I thought that before I hung up my boots for good I would like to have a go at business. And I’m stimulated and, frankly, have never been busier. My big fear [was] that I’d suddenly be a nobody. I still get good access, [although] I will never get the access I had.
“What I need are deals – with deals I get better access. As a former ambassador you are well respected – you get to keep the title of ambassador. What is different at that level is that in China there is a lot of ceremonial access. As ambassador I would always see the vice-minister and I wouldn’t go unless I could see the vice-minister.
“But often the right person could be the next person down – the director-general, say, or the deputy director-general. My access is fine; everyone will see me once as a courtesy. I have good standing in the system and that means a lot. It’s all about guanxi [the network of relationships used in business].”
Raby is also a visiting fellow at Monash University and in this role he can be expected to keep offering free advice to the government of the day. “The vice-chancellor wanted me to contribute as a public intellectual. I want to keep contributing to public policy and I enjoy the freedom of not being constrained by being in government,” he says with a smile.
As well as doing work for the Queensland Investment Corporation – a state version of the Future Fund – Raby also gives “a bit of advice” to the Business Council of Australia. “They agree with things I am saying, such as that we do not engage enough in – and don’t really have a business agenda with – China.”
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