HTAA Conference Keynote – day 3

John Fitzgerald: “What did Napoleon say about China? Recent trends in studies of Chinese history.

*Napoleon apparently said: “Behold the Chinese empire! Let this dragon sleep, for when it awakes the whole world will tremble.” (Or something along those lines, anyway).
** This quote has been used as the opening of two best-selling books.

*Almost no scholarship has been done on Chinese history before the 1950s – only on Americans in China, etc.

*John King Fairbank pushed the Western impact/Chinese reaction mode of Chinese history (1950s-70s), not looking at indigenous history; more on assimilation, or not.

*Paul Cohen pushed/identified trend Chinese-centred history (1980-90s). China did have pre/non-West history; also that “West” is itself problematic; Chinese-Western relations are two-way.

*Post-Cohen writings:
–China in regional and world economic history
–pre-modern Europe as similar to pre-modern China, more similar than modern China to modern Europe
–Ethnic histories of China
–History of Chinese overseas

*China/Australia:
–Morrison and Donald, both white men in China; both journos for major international papers, in late 19th-early 20th century. Morrison was also the secretary to Chiang Kai-Shek’s (sp??) wife. Both not all that well known, but they do have biographies and other remembrances.
–Who remembers the Chinese who made equal contributions to relations between China and Australia?
-William Ah Ket
-NSW Chinese Chamber of Commerce – second in establishment to the one in Hong Kong
-William Liu
-Australian department stores established in China; still there
-James See (Hsieh Tsan Tai), born Sydney. Founded first revoluntionary organisation in China! Joined with Sun Yat-sen’s group.

*Pattern of migration for China to Australia parallels Europeans to USA; about 40% returned after a while.
–“District club” – organised by people from the same regions, to organise social and often financial affairs.
–Australasian Kuomintang association was second largest outside China. They set up a Canton HQ, for Australian Chinese visiting.
–Empire Reform Association
–Chinese Masonic Association

*Turns out Napoleon did not say that about China (surprise, surprise). Probably did say something about Britain shouldn’t fight China because then China would learn its own strength, build a fleet and defeat Britain.

NB: immigration to Australia: Aust imposed a tax per head. As a direct result, women did not come because they were not commercially productive and couldn’t, therefore, repay the 10 pounds it cost to get them in.

My take: I know very, very little about Chinese history or the scholarship thereof. This guy was really interesting. It’s terrible, the little we know about the contributions of non-Europeans to Australian society.

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