Professor Mark Wang (Australia-International Medal) Citation

Nomination of Professor Mark Wang for Australia-International Medal of the IAG

It is with pleasure that we provide this letter nominating Professor Mark Wang for the Australia-International Medal of the IAG. For over twenty years, from his base at the University of Melbourne, Mark has made an outstanding contribution to knowledge about China, the geographical study of China and Chinese geography. In so doing, he has collaborated with a substantial number of Australian academics and research students, introducing them to research on China and facilitating their access to it. We have watched with enormous admiration as he has made these contributions through a long engagement with detailed and extensive empirical (field) work.

Professor Wang’s research on China has principally focused on two themes -- [A] urban development -- China's land acquisition, resettlement / displacement, rural-urban migration, urban transformation/regional planning; and [B] the management of water. We deal with his contribution to each of these areas in turn.

Professor Wang has produced a long sequence of papers, chapters and books about urban development in China. These have been based on detailed field work in specific – often very remote – places, where the policies of Chinese governments are having effect on the lives of ordinary people. His studies of poverty alleviation schemes, of infrastructure-related resettlement schemes, of urban expansion programs have all shown how these grand development projects have particular – often negative – effects on the people who are subject to them. In this work, he has been tracing the flows of influence and resources that permit these effects to occur, showing exactly how local outcomes for particular groups of people follow from large-scale and grand development projects. One notable example of his method is his prize-winning paper in Geographical Research 2017, where he traces the (corrupt) flows of money in a suburban land development scheme – and the conflicts that have arisen over those flows. As his CV demonstrates, Mark has drawn a series of Chinese and Australian geographers along with him in this work, and has published it widely in Chinese journals as well as leading English-speaking ones.

Professor Wang’s work on water management in China has been done as a member of a team based in the School of Geography, with colleagues elsewhere in the world. Professor Wang has played a critical leadership role in this research, which has advanced knowledge about water management in China successively from irrigation on the N China Plain, to water supply to Shanghai, and then to the vast South-North Water Transfer Project. In each, he has traced the interaction of Chinese formal government arrangements for water, local environmental circumstances and regional socio-economic development trajectories, to show how particular outcomes have arisen and how those outcomes have affected the access of farmers, urban citizens and institutions to clean water. This work is deeply original: rather than starting from and prioritising the usual set of variables of this group (many other analyses prioritise water pricing, or governance for example), Professor Wang’s research shows how cultural, political, economic, environmental and technological conditions interact across scales to produce the effects that we see in practice. Furthermore, this work is not just of significance to water management or China, for such analysis of how large scale structural forces (such as privatisation) interact with local environmental conditions and social histories (such as forms of collective action) is a model for research that is as rare as it is exemplary.

These two streams of research contribution have been widely recognized. Mark has held a series of appointments as honorary or visiting professorships at Chinese universities, and since 2010, has held the position of Distinguished Overseas Professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Changchun. He has received a long string of external grants to support this work – three ARC Discovery Projects, two (Chinese) National Science Foundation Projects and one (Chinese) National Social Science Foundation Project (these latter are the equivalent to our ARC Discovery Projects) in the last decade or so. Such external validation provides strong evidence of the esteem with which Mark’s research is held both in China and in the eyes of ARC reviewers. He has published widely in the leading journals of English-language geography and of environmental science -- Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Geoforum, Development and Change, Environment and Planning, Nature, Hydrology and Earth Systems Science, Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science, and Global Environmental Change, for example. This is in addition to a series of powerful publications in Chinese-language journals.

However, as we have noted, Mark’s contribution to geography in Australia is not simply confined to his own research. Mark's contribution to the advancement of the study of human geography in China, geographies of China, and Australia-China scholarly partnerships is unparalleled. At the University of Melbourne, he has been a mentor to dozens of Chinese Honours, Masters and PhD students as well as visiting scholars, many of whom have gone on to faculty positions in China and have helped to consolidate scholarly links between Australia and China. His involvement in major research projects with Chinese institutions has included training young scholars in geographic theories and methods, and advocating for the value of human geography. His mentorship of Australian students has produced a cohort of young Australians who are engaged with and better understand China, many of whom have gone on to become scholars, policy-makers, and business leaders. He has led the highly successful China Field Class in the University of Melbourne School of Geography for over 15 years, taking hundreds of Australian and international students to China to study its rural and urban development. The importance of this Field Class has been recognised through New Colombo Plan funding. Finally, over twenty years Mark has encouraged and supported a growing group of colleagues in the School of Geography to work with him on research projects in China, the result of which has been a stream of research about the geographies of China that is unique in Australian geography.

We recommend Mark Wang for the Australia-International Medal of the IAG in the strongest terms.

Brian Finlayson and Sarah Rogers.

Sophie Webber and Jon Barnett.