ENCOUNTERING CHINA: New Zealanders and the People's Republic.

AuthorBelgrave, David

Editors: Duncan Campbell and Brian Moloughney Published by: Massey University Press, Auckland, 2022, 392pp, $39.99.

It has been half a century since New Zealand established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. Between 1949 and 1972 New Zealand had few connections with the vast bulk of China and its people. Only a few adventurous New Zealanders (mostly with communist sympathies) or particularly hardy businesspeople travelled to the Chinese mainland when Wellington's official relations were with Taiwan and not Beijing. Once diplomatic relations were established, person-to-person contacts with the People's Republic could only grow. Duncan Campbell and Brian Moloughney have edited a book that tells human-scale stories of New Zealanders encountering China and how those personal relations were built over those 50 years.

The book is not concerned with the structural forces that the 'rise of China' has had on New Zealand. Explaining the economics of rapid development, geo-strategic shifts in Asia and the politics of a one-party state is not the purpose of this book, but those issues loom large in 50 vignettes describing New Zealand experiences of China and Chinese experiences of New Zealand. These stories tell of how the relationship has changed through those experiences, from a China still experiencing the Cultural Revolution to a New Zealand whose university graduates now see Shanghai as an exciting OE destination.

Cultural exchange is a significant theme of the book. Poetry intersperses the short chapters. Hone Tuwhare's poem Kwantung Guest House: Canton takes pride-of-place as the first chapter after the introduction. In 1973 Tuwhare visited China, along with the young activist Tame Iti, as part of a Maori workers' delegation organised by the Communist Party of New Zealand. This would be the start of a wave of New Zealanders, especially students, travelling to China to learn Chinese, teach English and understand Chinese culture. The Maori workers' delegation and the visit by Prime Minister Robert Muldoon 1976 represent examples of the new period of official diplomatic recognition meeting the period of non-recognition. Although the Communist Party of New Zealand organised Tuwhare's trip, another chapter explains that the party's support from China would diminish as official and unofficial links with New Zealand grew. Similarly, Muldoon's visit to Beijing was complicated by the presence of New Zealand-born Chinese Communist...

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