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Recovering an Optimistic Era: Chinese-Australian Journalism from the 1920s to the 1940s

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Abstract

Often forgotten, China’s migrating journalists made powerful friends to win recognition as allies during the rising threat of the Pacific war. This study reveals fresh insights into how this minority press expanded professional and informal networks to gain credibility as patriots. The Chinese-Australian news owners interacted with political and press centres to secure support for their equal rights crusade. Their communities also benefited from a global media campaign to promote their alliance in the Second World War. This chapter draws on rare news sources, personal correspondence and top-secret surveillance reports to trace the untold story of Chinese-Australian journalism from the 1920s to the 1940s. The outspoken editors contributed to more inclusive notions of nationhood, patriotism and international cooperation.

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Fig. 5.1
Fig. 5.2
Fig. 5.3

Notes

  1. 1.

    John Curtin, “Australian Relations”, Digest of Decisions and Announcements and Important Speeches by the Prime Minister 7 (November 17, 1941), 6; Clem Lloyd and Richard Hall, ed., Backroom Briefings: John Curtin’s War (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 1997).

  2. 2.

    “Racial barriers”, The Canberre Times, November 18, 1941, p. 2.

  3. 3.

    John Curtin, “National Day”, Digest 45 (8 October 1942): 7–8: The Mercury, “Chinese War Correspondent Visits Australia”, June 6, 1945, p. 16; “Chinese Refugees for Australia”, The Sydney Morning Herald, January 15, 1942, p. 6.

  4. 4.

    Catherine Dewhirst, “Collaborating on Whiteness: Representing Italians in Early White Australia”, Journal of Australian Studies 32, no. 1 (2008): 33–49; Mei-fen Kuo, Making Chinese Australia: Urban Elites, Identities and the Formation of Chinese-Australian Identity, 1892–1912 (Clayton: Monash University Publishing, 2013); Jayne Persian, “Bonegilla: A Failed Narrative”, History Australia 9, no. 1 (2012): 64–83; Wanning Sun, ed., Media and the Chinese Diaspora: Community, Communications and Commerce (London: Routledge, 2006).

  5. 5.

    Rana Mitter, Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937–1945 (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2013).

  6. 6.

    Stewart Lone, Japan’s First Modern War: Army and Society in the Conflict with China, 1894–95 (Houndmills: The Macmillan Press, 1994); William Sima, China & the ANU: Diplomats, Adventurers, Scholars (Acton: The Australian National University Press, 2015), 2.

  7. 7.

    Thomas Stuart Clyne, Report of Commissioner, National Archives of Australia (NAA), 1945, A374.

  8. 8.

    Mobo Gao, “Early Chinese Migrants to Australia: a Critique of the Sojourner Narrative on Nineteenth-century Chinese Migration to British Colonies”, Asian Studies Review 41, no. 3 (2017): 389–404.

  9. 9.

    Kuo, Making Chinese Australia.

  10. 10.

    Curtin, “Australian Relations”, Digest of Decisions and Announcements and Important Speeches by the Prime Minister 7 (November 17, 1941), 6; Daily Telegraph, June 25, 1945.

  11. 11.

    Commonwealth of Australia, Chinese World’s News, Canberra: National Archives of Australia, Canberra, 1922–1955, A445, 232/4/18; W. M. Gockson, “Chinese Community”, Truth, January 22, 1922, p. 2; William Gockson, “Chinese Community”, Evening News, January 21, 1922, p. 4; Mai Tien Hua, “China’s Case”, The Daily Telegraph, August 29, 1925, p. 10; Hua, “China’s Case”, The Nambucca and Bellinger News, September 4, 1925, p. 6; Sidney Hing Lowe, “To The Editor”, The Daily Telegraph, November 14, 1922, p. 4; A. Rivett, “A Propagandist of ‘Empire’”, The Australian Worker, September 16, 1925, p. 15.

  12. 12.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News; Home Affairs Department, Chinese Times Limited, NAA, 1924–1933, A1, 1933/307.

  13. 13.

    Paul Jones, “The View from the Edge: Chinese Australians and China, 1890 to 1949”, in East by South: China in the Australasian Imagination, ed. Charles Ferrall, Paul Millar and Keren Smith (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2005), 46–69.

  14. 14.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News; Daily Telegraph, November 14, 1922, August 29, 1925; Department of External Affairs, William Yinson Lee [hereafter Lee], NAA, 1916, A1, 1916/31599; Evening News, January 21, 1922; Home Affairs, Chinese Times; Home and Territories Department, W Howe: Chinese Newspapers and the ‘White Australia Policy’ [hereafter Howe], NAA, 1922–1923, A1, 1923/1089; Truth, January 22, 1922.

  15. 15.

    Ann Curthoys, “‘Men of all Nations, except Chinamen’: Europeans and Chinese on the Goldfields of New South Wales”, in Gold: Forgotten Histories and Lost Objects of Australia, ed. Ian McCalman, Alexander Cook and Andrew Reeves (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 103–123; Sophie Loy-Wilson, Australians in Shanghai: Race, Rights and Nation in Treaty Port China (London: Routledge, 2017).

  16. 16.

    Kuo, Making Chinese Australia.

  17. 17.

    Stephen R. MacKinnon, “Toward a History of the Chinese Press in the Republican Period”, Modern China 23, no. 1 (1997): 3–32; Marina Svensson, Elin Sæther, Zhi’an Zhang, ed., Chinese Investigative Journalists’ Dreams: Autonomy, Agency and Voice (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014).

  18. 18.

    Hongy Bai, “Between Advocacy and Objectivity”, in Chinese Investigative Journalists’ Dreams: Autonomy, Agency and Voice, ed. Marina Svensson, Elin Sæther, Zhi’an Zhang (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014), 79.

  19. 19.

    Benton, “Chinese Transnationalism in Britain: A Longer History”, Identities 10, no. 3 (2003): 347–375; Sun, Media and the Chinese Diaspora.

  20. 20.

    Kate Bagnall, “Early Chinese Newspapers”, 2015, https://www.nla.gov.au/blogs/trove/2015/02/19/early-chinese-newspapers; Jones, “View;” Frederic Wakeman Jnr, “Hanjian (Traitor)! Collaboration and Retribution in Wartime Shanghai” in Becoming Chinese: Passages to Modernity and Beyond, ed. Wen-hsin Yeh (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 298–341; Michael Williams, “Wading 10,000 li to seek their fortune: Tung Wah News selections 1898–1901”, 2003, https://arrow.latrobe.edu.au/store/3/4/5/5/1/public/tungwah_article.htm.

  21. 21.

    Parks M. Coble, China’s War Reporters: The Legacy of Resistance Against Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015); Mitter, Forgotten.

  22. 22.

    E. M. Andrews, Australia and China: The Ambiguous Relationship (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1985).

  23. 23.

    Ray Moseley, Reporting War: How Foreign Correspondents Risked Capture, Torture and Death to Cover World War II (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017).

  24. 24.

    Lachlan Strahan, Australia’s China: Changing Perceptions from the 1930s to the 1990s (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996).

  25. 25.

    Bob Wurth, Saving Australia: Curtin’s Secret Peace with Japan (South Melbourne: Lothian Books, 2006).

  26. 26.

    Sun, Diaspora.

  27. 27.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News; External Affairs, Lee; Home Affairs, Chinese Times; Home and Territories, Howe.

  28. 28.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News; Home Affairs, Chinese Times, 1927.

  29. 29.

    The newspapers are The Advertiser, The Age, The Argus, The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser [hereafter Armidale], Army News, The Australian Worker, The Canberra Times, The Courier-Mail, The Daily News, The Daily Telegraph, Evening News, Examiner, Kalgoorlie Miner, The Herald, The Mercury, The Nambucca and Bellinger News, The Newcastle Sun, News, Smith’s Weekly, The Sun, The Sunday Telegraph, The Sydney Morning Herald, Truth, West Gippsland Gazette and Westralian Worker.

  30. 30.

    Lewis H. Brereton, The Brereton Diaries (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1946); Commonwealth of Australia, Percy Reginald Stephensen, NAA, 1943, A373, 4522B; Commonwealth of Australia, Thomas Walsh, NAA, 1939, A367, C64736.

  31. 31.

    Cinesound Productions, First Chinese Minister Arrives (newsreel), 1941, National Film and Sound Archives (NFSA), Canberra, f72226; John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library (JCPML), Index to John Curtin’s speeches in the Digest of Decisions and Announcements and Important Speeches by the Prime Minister, 1941–1945, 2007, JCPML01148/1, Bentley; Lloyd and Hall, Briefings; Movietone, Names in the News (newsreel), 1941, NFSA, 126160; Movietone, Personalities Living at the Federal Capital (newsreel), 1941, NFSA, 89268.

  32. 32.

    Curthoys, “‘Men of all Nations, except Chinamen’”.

  33. 33.

    Paul Jones, ““A Consequent Gain in the Tempo of Effort’: Chinese labour and Chinese industrial activism in Australia, 1941–1945”, in The Past is Before Us, ed. Greg Patmore, John Shields, and Nikola Balnave (The University of Sydney: Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, 2005), http://asslh.econ.usyd.edu.au.

  34. 34.

    “The Chinese Times”, Bendigo Advertiser, February 14, 1902, 3.

  35. 35.

    Department of Immigration, Chinese World’s News, NAA, 1933, A2998, 1952/253.

  36. 36.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News; Home Affairs, Chinese Times; Home and Territories, “Howe.”

  37. 37.

    Home Affairs, Chinese Times, 1928–1929, 60.

  38. 38.

    “Chinese Times”, The Sun, August 27, 1922, 2; “Interesting Items”, West Gippsland Gazette, January 25, 1927, 4.

  39. 39.

    Department of Immigration, Chinese World’s News.

  40. 40.

    Sidney Hing Lowe, “White Australia Policy”, The Sydney Morning Herald, October 30, 1922, p. 6.

  41. 41.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News, 1921; Home and Territories, Howe.

  42. 42.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News.

  43. 43.

    Home and Territories, Howe.

  44. 44.

    External Affairs, Lee, 24; Home and Territories Department, ‘The Chinese World’s News’ Publication in Australia, NAA, 1921, A1, 1921/16152.

  45. 45.

    External Affairs, Lee, 27.

  46. 46.

    “Weddings”, The Daily Telegraph, February 14, 1916, p. 3; “Chinese Weddings”, The Sun, February 13, 1916, p. 10.

  47. 47.

    Gockson, Evening News, 4, Truth, 2.

  48. 48.

    The Luck of Lumb Liu”, Smith’s Weekly, June 12, 1920, p. 3.

  49. 49.

    Lowe, “Editor” p. 4; Lowe, “White Australia Policy”, p. 6.

  50. 50.

    Attorney-General’s Department, Chinese Newspapers Australia, NAA, 1923, A367, 1923/1824, 8.

  51. 51.

    Attorney-General’s Department, Chinese Newspapers, 9.

  52. 52.

    The available rare records do not confirm the exact details of Ma Hang Su’s birth and death.

  53. 53.

    Hua, “Case”, The Daily Telegraph, p. 10, The Nambucca and Bellinger News, 6; Rivett, “Empire”, p. 15.

  54. 54.

    Home Affairs, Chinese Times, 1927.

  55. 55.

    John Curtin, “The Question of Mr Angwin’s Politics”, Westralian Worker, February 4, 1927, JCPML.

  56. 56.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News, 1923.

  57. 57.

    Chinese Republic News, January 9, 1937; Tung Wah Times, January 18, 1936.

  58. 58.

    “本 帝 堪 卜 學 校 敎 職” [“Dedicated to the School”], Tung Wah Times, February 15, 1936, p. 6.

  59. 59.

    “國 雛 中 之 敎 育 及 敎 育 業 者 办” [“Education and Management in the Country”], Chinese Republic News, January 30, 1937, p. 7.

  60. 60.

    Chinese Republic News, January 16, 30 1937; MacKinnon, “Press”, Tung Wah Times, January 11, 25, February 15, March 7, 1936.

  61. 61.

    “英 法 進 行” [British and French], Chinese Republic News, January 9, 1937, p 6.

  62. 62.

    “本 帝 堪 卜 學 校 敎 職”, Tung Wah Times.

  63. 63.

    Chinese Republic News, January 2, 1937; Tung Wah Times, February 15, 1936; Wakeman, “Traitor”.

  64. 64.

    Chinese Republic News, January 9, 16, 30 1937; Tung Wah Times, January 11, 18, 25; February 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; March 7, 14 1936.

  65. 65.

    “Australian-born Chinese praised”, The Advertiser, September 3, 1935, p. 20; “China’s Debt to Australia”, The Courier-Mail, September 3, 1935, p. 17.

  66. 66.

    The Herald, March 4, 1938.

  67. 67.

    The Newcastle Sun, April 25, 1938.

  68. 68.

    “Dramas”, The Sunday Telegraph, May 17, 1942, p. 24.

  69. 69.

    Commonwealth, “Walsh”, 1942.

  70. 70.

    Commonwealth, “Walsh”, 1941, 233.

  71. 71.

    Brereton, Diaries, December 17, 1941; Clyne, “Report.”

  72. 72.

    Christian Caryl, “Unfinished Business”, Foreign Policy, June 28, 2010, https://foreignpolicy.com/2010/06/28/unfinished-business-2.

  73. 73.

    Commonwealth, “Walsh”, 1942, 124.

  74. 74.

    Commonwealth, “Walsh”, 1942.

  75. 75.

    Brereton, Diaries, November 25, 1941.

  76. 76.

    Brereton, Diaries, December 12, 1941.

  77. 77.

    “Additional Revelations Made at Australia First Enquiry”, Army News, October 7, 1944, p. 4; “Stephenson Tells of ‘Arms Agents’ Scare’”, The Herald, October 5, 1944, p. 6.

  78. 78.

    “Admiration for Japan”, The Age, October 6, 1944, p. 5.

  79. 79.

    The Canberra Times, June 20, 1944; The Sydney Morning Herald, August 25, 1944.

  80. 80.

    Commonwealth of Australia, Arrival of Chinese Minister to Australia, NAA, 1941–1942, A2880, 6/19/3, 13.

  81. 81.

    British Pathé, Australia 1942 (newsreel), 1942; Cinesound, Minister; Curtin, “Australian Relations”; Movietone, Names; Movietone, Personalities.

  82. 82.

    The Advertiser, March 24, 1942; The Age, March 26, 1942; Department of External Affairs, China—Relations with Australia, 1941–1942, NAA, A981, Chin 94 Part 3; Examiner, March 26, 1942; The Mercury, March 28, 1942; The Sun, April 1, 1942; The Sydney Morning Herald, March 24, 1942.

  83. 83.

    “Modern Trends in Art”, The Age, October 14, 1941, p. 6; “Charles Wheeler’s Serene Landscapes”, The Herald, October 19, 1942, p. 7.

  84. 84.

    Curtin, “Question.”

  85. 85.

    Curtin, “Prisoners of War”, Digest 28 (May 7, 1942): 14; F. T. Smith, cited in Lloyd and Hall, Briefings.

  86. 86.

    JCPML, “Australia Visit of Mr. Curtin to USA & UK in connection with Prime Ministers’ Conference London”, 1944, JCPML00768/3.

  87. 87.

    Smith, Briefings, 175.

  88. 88.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News.

  89. 89.

    The Canberra Times, July 10, 1939; The Daily News, February 4, 1939; The Sydney Morning Herald, May 4, 1939.

  90. 90.

    “Only One War Interests Chinese Resident”, Armidale, March 13, 1940, p. 4.

  91. 91.

    “The China War”, Kalgoorlie Miner, June 10, 1940, p. 4.

  92. 92.

    The Canberra Times, March 25, 1941; The Daily Telegraph, October 10, 1942; Evening News, March 25, 1941; Smith’s Weekly, October 12, 1940, February 28, 1942.

  93. 93.

    Selwyn Speight, “Truth about the Chinese Crisis”, The Sydney Morning Herald, December 13, 1944, p. 2.

  94. 94.

    “China Can Never Be Conquered”, Smith’s Weekly, October 12, 1940, pp. 1, 5; “Georgie Nock”, Smith’s Weekly, February 28, 1942, p. 13.

  95. 95.

    The Daily Telegraph, January 9, 1940, October 10, 1942; Home Affairs, Chinese Times, 1929; Smith’s Weekly, October 12, 1940, February 28, 1942.

  96. 96.

    “Conquered”, Smith’s Weekly, October 12, 1940, p. 5.

  97. 97.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News, 1935.

  98. 98.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News, 1936.

  99. 99.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News, 1936, 45.

  100. 100.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News, 46.

  101. 101.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News, 47.

  102. 102.

    Department of Immigration, Chinese World’s News, 1942.

  103. 103.

    Department of Immigration, Chinese World’s News, 1922–1946.

  104. 104.

    Department of Immigration, Chinese World’s News, 1943, 8.

  105. 105.

    Curtin, “Nationals in Australia”, Digest 23 (March 24, 1942): 11.

  106. 106.

    Smith, Briefings.

  107. 107.

    Errol G. Knox, “A Welcome is Ready for Mr Curtin”, The Argus, December 16, 1943, p. 2.

  108. 108.

    “Australia in a New World”, The Sydney Morning Herald, November 19, 1943, p. 7.

  109. 109.

    The Age, January 5, 1944; Argus, January 3, 1944; The Herald, May 3, 1944.

  110. 110.

    T. Churchward Kelly, “Suffering China”, The Examiner, September 1, 1943, p. 4.

  111. 111.

    W. Stewart, “Migration Policy”, The Herald, May 3, 1944, p. 6.

  112. 112.

    Smith, cited in Lloyd and Hall, Briefings, 53.

  113. 113.

    “Background to the World’s News”, The Argus, December 1, 1945, p. 13; “Time Book of the Week”, The Daily Telegraph, October 27, 1946, p. 30; Theodore White, “Chinese Fight Japs, Inflation—and Other Chinese”, News, August 5, 1944, p. 2.

  114. 114.

    The Age, April 20, 1943, October 17, 1944; The Canberra Times January 16, December 21, 1942; The Sydney Morning Herald, October 8, 1940, December 25, 1941, August 31, 1943, September 1, 1945.

  115. 115.

    “Chinese Reporter to Join British Pacific Fleet”, The Argus, June 1, 1945, 3; Lee, “At Last.”

  116. 116.

    “Chinese Tells Us Why He Likes Us, But …”, The Advertiser, July 9, 1945, p. 2.

  117. 117.

    “Chinese War Correspondent Visits Australia”, The Mercury, June 6, 1945, p. 16.

  118. 118.

    F. W. Eggleston to H.V. Evatt, Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 7 (November 21, 1944).

  119. 119.

    Robert McOrland, “What are their readers told in Australia’s foreign language newspapers?”, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 25, 1950, p. 3.

  120. 120.

    Jones, “View.”

  121. 121.

    Commonwealth, Chinese World’s News, 1950, 1952.

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Coatney, C. (2021). Recovering an Optimistic Era: Chinese-Australian Journalism from the 1920s to the 1940s. In: Dewhirst, C., Scully, R. (eds) Voices of Challenge in Australia’s Migrant and Minority Press. Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-67330-7_5

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