Encountering China reviewed on NBR


Nevil Gibson has reviewed Encountering China: New Zealanders and the People’s Republic edited by Duncan Campbell and Brian Moloughney. 

‘Many readers will have had personal encounters with China over the past 50 years. Mine would not be dissimilar, starting with a brief day tour to Guangzhou by road from Hong Kong in the 1980s.

Like any visit to a communist country, tourists were under strict controls, including photography, learned little from their guides, but were able to observe the obvious signs of poverty, backwardness, and conditions that defied any idea that socialism was a superior system.

These notions had long been nurtured on the Left, through friendship societies, pro-communist ‘peace’ groups and, during the 1960s and 1970s, opposition to the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons.

In 1972, the first actions by newly elected Labour governments in New Zealand and Australia were to recognise the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate successor to Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist regime.

This had nothing to do with New Zealand’s economic interests and everything to do with political ideology.

Ironically, the National Party did much to advance the economic and political relationship while in power, with Sir Robert Muldoon being the first prime minister to visit China, in 1976. And it was a National Party dominion councillor, Victor Percival, who was the most ardent champion of doing business with China, promoting trade.

The establishment of formal diplomatic ties is marked by a new book, Encountering China, which collects the experiences of more than four dozen diplomats, academics, students, writers, artists, and others who travelled and lived in communist China.’

Read the full review here.