Better beer for billions of people

November 27, 2017

Professor Chengdao Li (Image: Wayne Rochat)

Barley breeder: Professor Chengdao Li is director of the Western Barley Genetics Alliance (Image: Wayne Rochat)

21 December 2017 marks the 45th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Australia and China. The Australian Embassy in Beijing is celebrating the anniversary by highlighting “45 stories for 45 years”.

The stories celebrate the multifaceted community and cultural links – across sports, science, the arts, business and academia – that are the fabric of the Australia-China relationship.

With Murdoch University’s longstanding interest in the Australia and China relationship, Professor Chengdao Li has shared his story and journey in developing better beer for billions of people.


As a young boy growing up in the Hubei Province of central China, I always had a thirst to acquire knowledge. Little did I know this thirst for knowledge would ultimately lead to me quenching the thirst of those with a love for full-flavoured beer.

In the early 90's, China’s beer consumption was increasing dramatically. High-quality malting barley was becoming a major bottleneck for the expanding industry, with Australian barley constantly competing with Canadian and European barley to capture a greater share of the international market.

 Against this background, I came to Australia to look for a technical solution to improve the yield and quality of barley. It was here I discovered it would be a win-win for the two countries to work together to solve the problem.

Working as a barley breeder at the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, the release of new varieties such as Baudin and Hamelin transformed Australia from a barley commodity provider to a premium barley supplier on the international markets. The new varieties increased yield and price premiums, boosting barley growers’ income by more than 10 per cent. Baudin is now the world benchmark for malting quality, and still the preferred malting barley variety in China for brewing beer.

For decades, I have developed deep collaborations with major customers in China to enhance their awareness of Australian new malting barley varieties and provided technical guidance on how to handle them. Through this linkage, Tsingtao Brewery in China has undertaken commercial malting and brewing for Australian barley varieties.

Now, Australia is the world’s largest malting exporter and China is the largest importer, with Australia accounting for over 70 per cent of China’s malting barley import.

My work is still not complete. I visit the major breweries in China every year, and along with Chinese students at Murdoch University in Western Australia, I'm working closely with our Chinese colleagues to develop a perfect Australian barley to make full-flavour Chinese beer for billions of people around the world…‘Cheers’ to that!

Professor Chengdao Li

Murdoch University



45 Years, 45 Stories is an initiative of the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


The story was originally published on the website

Print This Post Print This Post

Leave a comment

You can use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

We read every comment and will make every effort to approve each new comment within one working day. To ensure speedy posting, please keep your comments relevant to the topic of discussion, free of inappropriate language and in-line with the editorial integrity of this newsroom. If not, your comments may not be published.

Thanks for commenting!