By James Beattie, Victoria University of Wellington
NZASIA President James Beattie caught up with two energetic, long-time members of the New Zealand Chinese community, Kirsten Wong and Nigel Murphy, who have been working tirelessly to raise awareness of Cantonese heritage, history and community in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Tell me both, please, how you became interested in aspects of Chinese New Zealand heritage?
Kirsten: I grew up as part of a big extended family and was lucky enough to be surrounded by lots of amazing stories. I'm an only child so when the adults got together they would often talk as if I wasn't in the room. I got to hear all about my aunts and uncles' lives in Newtown in the 1930s and ‘40s. Stories like how my grandmother was so excited when she first got the family benefit and what she spent her money on. That was the first Labour Government [1935-49] which lifted the restriction on welfare payments to Chinese. So I grew up with a love for their stories, but also feeling the need to preserve that atmosphere that I grew up in and to make our Chinese New Zealand experiences visible. It's been a real calling for me.
Nigel: I was with Kirsten in the early 1980s and because of that I was invited to the numerous family functions. One day we went and visited Uncle Ted (Ting) at his greenhouse at Otaki. He told us his father Chan Moon Ting had arrived in New Zealand on a windjammer in the late 1880s and gave us the name of the ship. I was working at the Turnbull Library at the time and thought I’d just go and check and see if he was right. So, the next day I decided to investigate and found - nothing. So, I looked for any primary source material on Chinese New Zealanders and again I found – nothing. National Archives – nothing. I said to myself, there must be something, these people were here during the gold rush of the 1860s, there has to be something!
That started a long journey into Chinese New Zealand history which continues to this day. At the time my experiences with the Chinese New Zealand community had been so incredibly enriching that I thought, “how can I can pay back what I’ve been given?” So, I thought the best way to contribute was through history, helping them discover and reconnect with their histories in this country. A further element in the story was my father had been to Shanghai just after the end of WWII. He had also been very taken by the Chinese people he met there, by Chinese culture, and the way Chinese people approached life. He bought Chinese paper, ink, inkstone, brushes (Four Treasures of the Studio), as well as an abacus and some reproductions of the famous horse paintings by Xu Beihong which were on the walls of the family house as long as I could remember. He also bought a ‘teach yourself Chinese’ book which, as a ten-year old, I took up in a rather wildly ambitious attempt to learn how to read and write Chinese. I had yet to meet a Chinese person at that point. So, that’s how it all began. And, by the way, I still haven’t found out when Uncle Ted’s father came to New Zealand or on which ship, and I still haven’t learned how to read and write Chinese. But I know a lot about Chinese New Zealand history.
Can you let me know about two current projects you are working on, and why you think they are important?
Kirsten: This week I've been working on the Ventnor memorial project for the New Zealand Chinese Association (NZCA). On 9 December 2020, our Ventnor memorial was officially blessed alongside the newly opened Manea Footprints of Kupe Cultural Centre in Opononi. The memorial is for the 499 former Chinese miners whose remains were lost when the SS Ventnor sunk off the Hokianga coast in 1902. The NZCA memorial features the names of all 499 people whose remains were lost, plus the 13 passengers and crew who lost their lives in the sinking.
The Ventnor story is really one of our community's most significant historical moments because it is literally a living piece of history. After the boat sank, remains began washing ashore and were picked up and cared for by those who lived along the coastlines, including people from Te Roroa and Te Rarawa who live to the south and north of the Hokianga Heads. They have been caring for the history and the remains since 1902. The Chinese community of descendants was only made aware of this in 2007. Since then we have formed close relationships with Te Roroa and Te Rarawa, Te Mahurehure and now Te Hua o te Kawariki Trust which is behind the Manea centre.
This memorial was always about honouring our ancestors, but it was also to pay homage to the kind people of the Hokianga who have been caring for our ancestors' remains for all this time. We feel it's a history that should be remembered and celebrated, especially because of the values that make this story so special: the importance of ancestral heritage, the links to the land, the relationships within and between families and communities, and the importance of kindness. The memorial, we hope, will be just the beginning of an ongoing story.
And to do a complete turnaround, the other thing I've been working on in the past few days has been NZCA's response to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority after writings by a white supremacist, Lionel Terry, were included in an NCEA Level 2 history exam. Terry murdered an elderly man, Joe Kum Yung, on Wellington's Haining St in 1905 to bring attention to his anti-Chinese views. The wonderful writer Chris Tse wrote an excellent Spinoff article about this: Rhymes of the ancient murderer: How a racist killer became an NCEA question There's also an incredibly powerful poem written by the young woman, Cadence Chung, who along with her friend Julia Randerson, first brought the issue to public attention. The poem is published on Poetry Shelf and is titled Shadows/Shades. Both are incredibly rewarding pieces of writing.
Nigel: The major project at the moment is an update of the Poll Tax Report commissioned by the NZCA in 1992 as part of its campaign to obtain an official apology from the government for the poll tax (which was achieved in 2000) The update is very much expanded and includes a lot more background on the people who paid the tax, where they came from, how they got here, what sort of people they were, and what their life was like here. I’ve also discovered some facts that rather upturn the current narrative on the poll tax story from the New Zealand government side. I’m also involved in a project co-ordinated by Sydney Shep and Ya-Wen Ho 賀雅雯 from the Wai-te-ata Press at Victoria University to translate and publish – with contextual narrative – a series of poems written by the editor of the Dominion Federation of Chinese Commercial Growers Monthly Journal, and published in that journal in the late 1960s. They’re a fascinating insight into Chinese New Zealand life at the time, and I’m sure it will be a major contribution to Chinese New Zealand studies. I’m also contributing a chapter for an upcoming book on the extreme Right in New Zealand. The chapter will look at the ongoing influences of the 20th-century White New Zealand policies on Far Right attitudes and thinking in New Zealand in the 2020s.
A.NZ.A.C: Australia, New Zealand and China – a global review, by Roman Rosenbaum (University of Sydney)
As 2020 nears its inevitable end, it is fair to say that for many of us it will be probably the most remarkable year in our living memory. This brief overview takes a cursory glance at the evolving Australia-New Zealand-China relationship amidst dramatically shifting global power-politics. Many commentators have remarked that New Zealand is now where Australia was geo-politically three years ago and for this reason alone it is worthwhile to consider our shared Sino-history.
During these extraordinary times, perhaps it is unsurprising that global brinkmanship in the age of ‘truthiness’ is espoused at fever-pitch by a gaggle of populist curmudgeons the world over. To make matters worse, our crisis in political zeitgeist is exacerbated by a biological one with the Covid-19 pandemic lending fuel to the fire of international geo-political rivalries. Australia, New Zealand and the United States on one side of a hypothetical fulcrum with China, Japan and the Koreas on the other, have a long and complex international historical relationship that has developed through all-out conflicts into a precarious yet somewhat stable multilateral partnership. However, this relative equilibrium amidst the global pandemic has been cast into the international limelight due to China’s increasingly assertive role in the Asia-Pacific region.
As Australia’s and New Zealand’s major trading partner, relationships with China are long-term, led to enduring prosperity and unprecedented bilateral friendship across the Asia-Pacific region. Australia has mostly kept silent about Chinese expansionism, the crack down on Democracy in Hong Kong, and the abandoning of the two-term limit for Xi Jinping’s presidency to declare himself leader for life,  outperforming Vladimir Putin’s attempts to become Russia’s eternal leader. Similarly, New Zealand has focused on maintaining friendly international relations and prioritised its domestic economy.
Yet, similar events across the Tasman have brought New Zealand on a collision course with one of Asia’s most-impressive economic juggernaut. Most recently, Chinese interference via political donations that are used to forge relationships to promote Beijing’s views in local media and support them internationally seem to jeopardise New Zealand’s political processes. Here, also, Australia and New Zealand have remarkably similar experiences with political figures being co-opted by Chinese financial investments. Most notoriously, an ambitious young Australian senator, Sam Dastyari, was exposed for parroting Communist Party campaign points and giving countersurveillance advice to a Chinese political donor before being hounded into premature retirement. Likewise, New Zealand’s National party MP Todd McClay is similarly infamous for receiving ‘legal’ donations of NZ$150, 000 (US$99,000) from China-based businessman, Lang Lin. The funds were given via Lang’s New Zealand-registered company with the quixotic name Inner Mongolia Rider Horse. The lawmaker later referred to the forced indoctrination camps for Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as ‘vocational training centers,’ echoing the terminology used by the Chinese government and state media to justify was is presumed to be mass detentions.
New Zealand’s recent suspension of its extradition treaty with Hong Kong as well as its policy on military and dual-use goods and technology exports to Hong Kong as a result of Hong Kong’s new national security law, earned it the ire of China’s ambassador to New Zealand, Wu Xi, who accused Wellington of ‘gross interference’ in China’s internal affairs. Just like Australia, relations with China appear at a crossroads. Furthermore, these primarily economic-political accoutrements, recently spilled over into academic discourse when New Zealand-China scholar Professor Anne-Marie Brady published her controversial ‘Holding a Pen in One Hand, Gripping a Gun in the Other.’ Due to four formal complaints from academic staff at other universities and at the University of Canterbury, an internal review to ‘test the veracity of the claims,’ was initiated, which also led to personal vilification that have turned her life up-side down.
This is not unheard of in Australian political circles, with a former list of seven areas of disagreement, listed previously that Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, now extended by Beijing to a ‘List of Grievances’ with Australia including fourteen items. The full list of the grievances has been released by Eryk Bagsahaw on Twitter of all places, mirroring the insouciance of Trumpism. Yet all this marks merely the pointy tip of a metaphorical iceberg, calamitously floating in a globally-warmed ocean of discontent. Australia’s strict foreign interference laws, the country’s ban on Huawei's involvement in its 5G network – followed by New Zealand - and decisions that blocked Chinese investment projects on ‘national security grounds’ are some of the other roadblocks imposed on China. Not surprisingly this has led to retaliatory bans on agricultural goods including beef, barley and timber and most recently terrifying tariffs with devastating consequences for the Australian wine industry. A recent bolstering of defence relations with Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is widely viewed as aimed at countering Chinese influence in the region.
As if this grandstanding superciliousness is not enough, Prime-Minister Scott Morrison’s erudite ‘Australia will always be Australia’ was trumped by Chinese government official suggestion that ‘if you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy, a Chinese government official reportedly told three prominent media outlets. 
Towards a common future
The way forward for Australia and New Zealand is complicated and will most certainly have economic repercussions. In Australia, China has been accused of many things from ‘coercive diplomacy,’ to the passive-aggressive ‘carrot and stick economics,’ but New Zealand has not yet felt the ‘brunt’ of Chinese disgruntlement. The flip side of the coin is of course that one can hardly blame China for taking advantage of the opportunities presented during the declining Australian official development assistance (ODA) support, reaching a historical low point in 2019, or the lack of interest from the United States in the South Pacific region during its ‘America First’ policy.
As the poster from grassroots campaigns in Sydney exemplify (fig 1), the Australian Chinese community and its culture has become an integral part of Australian and undoubtedly New Zealand multicultural cognizance.
China is smart and has been dealt a difficult hand with the outbreak of the Corona Virus, but the world can scarcely afford being led astray by a group of egotistical megalomaniacs – and there appear to be many the world over. With the era of Trump almost over, the neo-liberalism of Abenomics probably behind us, but the threat of North Korea remaining, what the world needs is a China’s age-old wisdom and the nation’s historical taoguang yanghui (keep a low profile and bide your time) strategy to navigate the troubled waters of the global pandemic.
Concluding notes: At the time of writing this review, tensions with China are escalating rapidly due to the release of a Twitter post by the Deputy Director of Foreign Ministry Information Department Zhao Lijian, which depicts a fake image of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan holding a knife to a child’s throat, signalling a more aggressive display of China’s Wolf Warrior diplomacy and further escalating the tension between the two nations.
Anne-Marie Brady (with Jichang Lulu and Sam Pheloung), ‘Holding a Pen in One Hand, Gripping a Gun in the Other: China’s Exploitation of Civilian Channels for Military Purposes in New Zealand.’ July 2020. Online at: <https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/media/uploads/documents/2020-07-HoldingAPenInOneHand-Brady.pdf>. Accessed: 24 November 2020.
Jian Yang, The Pacific Islands in China's Grand Strategy: Small States, Big Games. London: Palgrave, 2011.
Bates Gill and Linda Jakobson, China Matters: Getting it Right for Australia. Carlton, VIC: La Trobe University Press, 2017.
 Anne Marie Brady, ‘New Zealand's relationship with China is at a tipping point,’ in The Guardian, 31 July 2020.Online at: <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/31/new-zealands-relationship-with-china-is-at-a-tipping-point>. Accessed: 23 November 2020.
 James Massola, ‘China wants a compliant Australia, Malcolm Turnbull says,’ in Sydney Morning Herald, 25 June 2020. <https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/china-wants-a-compliant-australia-malcolm-turnbull-says-20200623-p555a0.html>. Accessed: 22 November 2020.
 Al Jazeera, ‘ “Five Eyes” group slams China crackdown on Hong Kong legislators,’ 19 November 2020. <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/11/19/five-eyes-alliance-tells-china-to-end-hong-kong-crackdown>. Accessed: 22 November 2020.
 Kirsty Needham, ‘China changes its rules for leaders, prompting talk of Mao,’ in Sydney Morning Herald. Online at: <https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/china-changes-its-rules-for-leaders-prompting-talk-of-mao-20180226-p4z1sg.html>. See also: <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-43361276>.
 Isabelle Khurshudyan, ‘Putin once told Russians he didn’t want to be the ‘eternal president.’ Now it appears he does,’ in Washington Post, 12 March 2020. Online at: <https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/putin-once-told-russians-he-didnt-want-to-be-the-eternal-president-now-it-appears-he-does/2020/03/11/5391b5f0-638e-11ea-8a8e-5c5336b32760_story.html>. Accessed 29 November 2020.
 Anne-Marie Brady, ‘New Zealand needs to show it's serious about addressing Chinese interference,’ in The Guardian, 24 January 2020. Online at: <https://www.theguardian.com/world/commentisfree/2020/jan/24/new-zealand-needs-to-show-its-serious-about-addressing-chinese-interference>. Accessed: 29 November 2020.
 John Garnout, ‘How China Interferes in Australia: And How Democracies Can Push Back,’ in Foreign Affairs, 9 March 2018. Online at: <https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-03-09/how-china-interferes-australia>. Accessed 29 November 2020.
 See the extensive analytical article by Sarah Cook, ‘The Expansion of Chinese Communist Party Media Influence since 2017.’ Online at: <https://freedomhouse.org/report/special-report/2020/beijings-global-megaphone>. Accessed 22 November 2020.
 Eleanor Ainge, ‘I’am being watched’: Anne-Marie Brady, the China critic living in fear of Beijing,’ in The Guardian, 23 January 2019. Online at: < https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/23/im-being-watched-anne-marie-brady-the-china-critic-living-in-fear-of-beijing>. Accessed: 24 November 2020. See also the official University response: ‘Academic review responding to complaints about Professor Brady’s paper,’ 20 October 2020. Online at: <https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/news/2020/academic-review-responding-to-complaints-about-professor-bradys-paper.html>. Accessed: 1 December 2020.
 Eryk Bagshaw is the China correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. <https://twitter.com/ErykBagshaw/status/1328983898911457280>. Accessed: 29 November 2020.
 Ben Butler and Helen Davidson, ‘China imposes swingeing tariffs on Australian wine in 'devastating blow' to exporters,’ in The Guardian, 27 November 2020. Online at: <https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/nov/27/china-imposes-swingeing-tariffs-on-australian-wine-in-devastating-blow-to-exporters>. Accessed 29 November 2020.
 Kirsty Needham, ‘Australia “will always be Australia,” PM responds to China grievances,’ in Reuters, 19 November 2020. Online at: <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-china-diplomacy-idUSKBN27Y349>. Accessed: 29 November 2020.
 Jonathan Kearsley, Eryk Bagshaw and Anthony Galloway, ‘If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy: Beijing's fresh threat to Australia,’ in Sydney Morning Herald, 18 November 2020. Online at; <https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/if-you-make-china-the-enemy-china-will-be-the-enemy-beijing-s-fresh-threat-to-australia-20201118-p56fqs.html>. Accessed: 29 November 2020. See also: < https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/australian-pm-scott-morrison-rebuffs-chinese-grievance-list-2327259>.
 Lowy Institute, ‘Australian Foreign Aid.’ Online at: <https://www.lowyinstitute.org/issues/australian-foreign-aid>. Accessed: 29 November 2020.
The New Zealand Asian Studies Society registers its deep concerns about the University of Canterbury’s decision that a paper written by Professor Anne-Marie Brady should result in its author facing an internal inquiry. We wish to know why the University of Canterbury – in its role as “critic and conscience of society” – did not handle the complaints made about Professor Brady’s paper, “Holding a Pen in One Hand, Gripping a Gun in the Other,” via open and critical dialogue in the spirit of academic freedom, but instead resorted to a top-down mechanism of review. The more general and possible impact of this inquiry could be for it to conflict with the legal requirement that universities and their academic staff serve as “critic and conscience of society” (The Education Amendment Act, New Zealand 1989, Section 162, 4, a, v).
By Bolin Hu, winner of the NZASIA Conference Postgraduate Prize 2019.
I’m an international PhD student from Wuhan, China, where the COVID-19 first broke out. In 2017, I came to the University of Auckland to start my PhD study on China’s relations with Australia and New Zealand during the World War II, mainly focusing on the transnational link between overseas Chinese in these two countries and China. This project is inspired by my archival research experience in both Australia and New Zealand during the summer and winter vacations from 2009 to 2012. Almost ten years ago, when I first came to New Zealand and Australia, I was impressed with how the Chinese residents in both countries tried to preserve their Chinese heritage and resinicize their children in their efforts to adapt to the host society and cope with a certain degree of racism and white supremacy.
One aspect of my study focuses on how the Chinese Australian newspapers reported their home country in the 1930s when the Second Sino-Japanese War unofficially began. Chinese-language newspapers in Australia, as a part of the modernisation of overseas Chinese around the world, became prosperous in the early twentieth century. However, only four of them survived in the 1930s and devoted themselves to anti-Japanese propaganda in an attempt to stimulate nationalism and patriotism within the local Chinese community. Though these Chinese Australian presses shared a common anti-Japanese outlook and an identification of Chinese culture, their political loyalty was quite different. Generally speaking, the Chinese Australian society was politically divided into pro- and anti-Nanjing government camps, apart from some embracing a broader and inclusive political view. Chinese-language newspapers, such as the Tung Wah Times and Chinese World’s News, continued their anti-Chiang Kai-shek propaganda and urged a strong resistance of the Japanese invasion in China. The Chinese Republic News and Chinese Times, unlike their counterparts, demonstrated support and understanding of Nanjing’s dilemma, though the political position of the former was more fluid. The divergent views revealed the multiple loyalties of the Chinese Australians and their active community politics when their population in Australia was declining, and it was a reminder that the community cannot be homogenised with a collective concept of a ‘country’. It also reflected their shared identification with the Chinese nation, showing different approaches to building up a strong home country. By shaping their readership’s Chinese patriotism and nationalism, these Chinese-language newspapers strengthened the connection and allegiances between Chinese in Australia and their homeland.
As an international student in New Zealand, I’m a kind of a member of the local Chinese community and experiencing the cultural adaptations that many Chinese immigrants and sojourners have had to make. This personal experience of displacement also deepens my understanding of the predicament of the diasporic Chinese community before 1949 and inspires and motivates me to do more exploration about their history.