White Ghosts, Yellow Peril: China and New Zealand 1790-1950
by Stevan Eldred-Grigg, with Zeng Dazheng 曾达峥 (Otago University Press, $55)
Reviewed by Judith Morrell Nathan
The complex relationship between China and New Zealand in the pre-Communist era is not well known. Stevan Eldred-Grigg, a New Zealand historian who has lived in China, is well qualified to write a history such as this.
I grew up with stories of the Chinese gold-miners of Otago, shopped at Chinese greengrocers in Dunedin, wore Sew Hoy clothing and subsequently learned about Chinese on the West Coast from Julia Bradshaw’s excellent history, Golden Prospects: Chinese on the West Coast of New Zealand. I was aware of the poll tax (though not that it was passed by the House of Representatives in 1881 by only one vote) and some of the other discriminatory measures against Chinese in New Zealand such as their exclusion from old age pensions. But this book covers a lot that was new to me, from the New Zealand-China seal trade, to New Zealand businessmen supporting Chinese immigration, and the Chinese empire opening an embassy here in 1909. And that’s just in the New Zealand sections.