China and Australia disability and digital economy study

Associate Professor Bingqin Li UNSW SPRC

As one of the top social policy scholars working on and in China, Associate Professor Bingqin Li’s strong international links bring a global element to the Disability Innovation Institute. Her primary focus is on social policy and governance, and she is based in the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. 

Bingqin directs the Chinese Social Policy Program at the SPRC and her projects include governance of age-friendly communities, social inclusion and integration, and urban governance. Most recently, her research interests have expanded to include the impact of digital technology on social development and innovation. She is currently working on research exploring the digital economy and disability, specifically, how technology has changed the employment scenario of people with disability. 

According to Bingqin, China is working hard on social policy reform, particularly related to organisations. “China and Australia can learn from each other regarding policies and social services in many ways. What makes China particularly interesting is that the country is facing some of the same structural issues challenging Europe during the Industrial Revolution more than 100 years ago, and, at the same time, new issues of the modernised world,” she says.

Bingqin says one of her key interests is making social policy important to the Chinese economy. “In China, the economic growth discourse has been strong for many years. I am trying to argue that people’s wellbeing is also important and caring for it can contribute meaningfully to the economy. Hence the disability and digital economy study,” she explains.

There is little doubt that there is considerable international interest on how Chinese economic, social and political policies are changing, and how they are interacting with and affecting the business, political and social environment. “There are a lot of Chinese companies doing business in Australia, and vice versa. We want to be able to work with these enterprises to understand the policy context and develop good social policy practices,” Bingqin continues. “I think this is an area where we can have important impact.”

Bingqin’s particular expertise centres on China, but she has also worked in other Asian countries. She studied economics in China and was one of the earliest Chinese scholars to study social policy abroad. She studied at the London School of Economics (LSE) in the 1990’s and then taught there for nine years. She also taught development policy at ANU for three years before moving to UNSW. 

This varied career path has seen her work on policy consultancy with international organisations, Chinese government, NGOs and top universities in China and Europe. This broad network, she says, is one of the key contributions she can offer her colleagues at the Disability Innovation Institute.

“I am able to link people from different domains. I can help put the jigsaw together by facilitating collaborative research between countries and help local and international researchers gain better access to, and understanding of, the policies and practices in China,” she says.

“The Institute is important,” says Bingqin, “because it brings together multidisciplinary experts to address social issues. It requires scholars to step outside the silo mentality and accept that disability is an issue that should be tackled by people from a multitude of perspectives. I find this approach to research very appealing.”

To discuss potential research projects or how you can engage with the Disability Innovation Institute contact Dr Martin Bone, Business Development Manager m.bone@unsw.edu.au