During a workaday Arts degree at Sydney University in the late 1970s, Richard began working as a journalist for Honi Soit, a student newspaper; Glebe & Western Weekly, covering local council politics; and Rolling Stone magazine, writing about rock music. After graduation, briefly as a rock music promoter and playing in a band before obtaining a job at The Sydney Morning Herald and later the ABC in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. During this time, he studied Chinese part-time.
Tired of waiting for an overseas posting, he moved to Taiwan in 1989 to work as a freelancer. This included delivering the morning news on the old US Armed Forces radio station and witnessing at first hand Taiwan’s emerging democracy, which, decades later, became one of the island’s biggest trump cards in dealing with Beijing.
Instead of being sent to China, Richard was posted to Japan for the ABC, before leaving the broadcaster station to open an office for The Australian. After five years in Tokyo, he moved to Hong Kong and then Beijing to establish the paper’s Beijing office (1995 to 1998).
From 1998, he spent two years back in Canberra as the paper’s political correspondent and was thenhired by the British paper, The Financial Times, as a bureau chief in Shanghai and then Beijing (2000 to 2009). This was the period when China joined the world trading system and took off, growing at 10% plus a year. China became the workshop-of-the-world, which meant, for a reporter for the Financial Times, spending a lot of time in factories. Following that, Richard worked for The Financial Times in London and then as Washington bureau chief for four years (2011 to 2015).
His book The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers, published in 2010, was a bestseller and described as a “masterpiece” by The Economist. It won numerous awards, including the Asia Society in New York Award for best book on Asia (2011), and the Mainichi Shimbun Award in Japan. This book was translated into seven languages. His next book, Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of US Power in the Pacific Century, published in 2017, was described as “shrewd and knowing” by The Wall Street Journal, and a “compelling and impressive” read by The Economist. It won the Prime Minister’s award for Non-Fiction in Australia (2018).
Richard was a Wilson Center Fellow in Washington D.C. (2015) and a visiting scholar at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University (2016). Richard has lectured widely, in the United States, Asia, Europe and the Pacific on Chinese politics and foreign policy. He is now a Senior Fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia’s leading foreign policy think tank.