News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Aussies and Chinamen
Hi A: I thought you might find the article excerpted below, dealing with Australian racism and Chinese gold miners, and the hiding of the facts by left wing historians, to be interesting.

I offer it as a sideshow to the 20th circus of left-wingers embracing racism either overtly (through to the end of WWII) or covertly (down to the present day via the closet racism of pandering to minorities as if they were mentally feeble). The KKK mindset of racism, class envy,
resentment of one's betters, a preference for violence and emotionalism over debate and empiricism, is still with us, only the social echelon's affluence and education has improved and it thus employs a different ideological format for venting grievance. People pursue power in a myriad ways, given their strengths and limitations, and the KKK is simply a part of that. If you strip the emotions away from it, you'll find it's as mechanical as a watch. The KKK mindset is no doubt as old as the Neolithic and will remain with us until, perhaps, artificial intelligence gets going. In the mean time, Katrina vanden Heuvel, the increasingly prominent editor and publisher of The Nation magazine, is a poster child for this sort of thing. Well-mannered, well-placed, well-spoken, chic, genteel, and a power-chasing predator to the marrow of her bones. Well, to a greater or lesser degree, aren't we all?

Anyway, the following excerpt is about the Chinese experience. (But the story of how Australian historians have been caught fabricating massacres of Aborigines is even worse.) As always, I do not pretend that the right is free of its own herd of frauds and shysters.

From: Why Australia is not a racist country by Keith Windschuttle

It is true, as Sammut argues, that in the second half of the nineteenth century, Australian trade unionists orchestrated periodic anti-Chinese agitations. Against my case that the union response was primarily on economic and egalitarian grounds, directed against poorly-paid and unfree coolie labour, Sammut insists the motive was racial prejudice.

No one who reads the colonial press reports about anti-Chinese meetings on the nineteenth century goldfields, he says, can fail to appreciate this. "The streak of prejudice that ran through Australian society was on full display," Sammut writes, though without actually quoting any of the newspapers of the day. He makes no comment on my detailed account of these incidents.

They were perpetrated, I argue, by a militant minority of white gold diggers. Most had been in the country less than three years. Some goldfields newspapers were certainly prejudiced against the Chinese, especially the one habitually cited by left-wing academic historians, the Burrangong Miner and General Advertiser, which had a brief life in the tent city that sprang up in the Young district in 1861–2. However, the mainstream press of the day took a different view.

The Sydney Morning Herald defended the Chinese and condemned the rioters. It hoped the parliament had "enough English feeling to protect the Chinese now in this country against the savage oppression of the vandals — many themselves foreigners — and who have no other right on our gold-fields than is given by the laws they violate." [emphasis in original] Sammut's article does not admit the existence of, let alone attempt to explain, such divergence of opinion.

Sammut's comments on the goldfields also avoid the information I provide about the attitudes of the authorities at the time. The government dispatched a force of police to defend the Chinese miners. The police arrested and jailed white rioters. The only person killed in the worst riot at Lambing Flat, Burrangong, was a white digger shot by police.

Under police protection, the Chinese miners returned to the field and re-established their camps and mines. The government compensated them for the tents and gear lost during the riot. The Victorian government paid £7300 for the losses at Buckland River and the New South Wales government gave £4240 to the Chinese at Lambing Flat.

While this information is in Myra Willard's 1923 history of the White Australia Policy, I have not seen one academic historian of the post-1960s generation mention it. This is not surprising. Those who want to beat up the goldfields violence prefer not to tell their readers that the actions of the rioters always remained lawless and gained no sanction from either the state or the mainstream opinion of Australia 's middle class and educated working class.

Although he cites the colonial press as part of his case, Sammut avoids commenting on my content analysis of four newspapers ( Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney Mail, Melbourne Argus, Adelaide Advertiser ) during the Afghan incident of 1888 when orthodox historians claim anti-Chinese sentiment was at its height. Rather than displaying a prejudice that ran through all society, the mainstream press largely echoed the views of the Sydney Morning Herald which denounced the "the unreasonable clamour and violent language of a portion of the people".

Elsewhere, Sammut simply asserts his case about anti-Chinese sentiment, without offering evidence of his own or even citing other sources that do. He writes: "A clear and hostile social divide was established between the Chinese and European workers in Australian towns and cities."

Since he is writing a critique of my book that deploys a substantial body of evidence to the contrary, Sammut was obliged to show where I had gone wrong. But he makes no comment at all on my following points:

On the Kiandra and Braidwood goldfields between 1858 and 1870, Barry McGowan's recent study has shown a fair degree of economic co-dependence and familiarity between European and Chinese miners, with numerous instances of Chinese miners buying claims and working claims cooperatively with European miners. There were also joint European-Chinese social events, such as the Braidwood races where Chinese diggers were invited to enter their own horses. At Kiandra, the Chinese were early participants in the fledgling sport of snow skiing and the local Snowshoe Club ran a special day's racing for its Chinese members.

After the early gold rushes, the Chinese were largely excluded by the organised labour movement from the traditional skilled trades, as well as other unionised occupations such as shearing and wharf labouring. Nonetheless, they found their own economic roles. They came to dominate market gardening and eventually had an effective monopoly, growing no less than 75 per cent of the vegetables in the whole country. This led them to become the principal hawkers of vegetables and to control about one-fifth of Australia 's fruit trade. Chinese also found ready employment in the hospitality industry, especially as cooks. Half the cooks in Australian hotels in the late nineteenth century were Chinese. In the 1880s they dominated the low-cost furniture manufacturing industry, leaving the high-quality end of the market to European tradesmen.

Cathie May's history of the Chinese in far north Queensland, where Chinese cash crops became important to the economic health of Cairns and Innisfail, found local Chinese shopkeepers, farmers and artisans succeeded in promoting a degree of friendship and a favourable reputation for themselves. References written by leading townsmen for Chinese merchants showed an unmistakable element of personal esteem. Commercial contacts extended to personal relationships. May found Europeans who grew up in the 1890s recalled visiting the gardens of their father's Chinese tenants on Sundays and taking refreshments. White merchants paid more formal visits to their Chinese counterparts who kept open house and entertained lavishly.

Geoffrey Bolton's 1970 history of far north Queensland, A Thousand Miles Away described race relations in the 1870s on the Palmer River goldfields, where the Chinese constituted a majority of miners, in the following terms: "The remarkable feature about the Chinese question in those years is that very little serious racial trouble occurred, even on the goldfields … Talk, rather than action; a grudging tolerance in practice, rather than stern measures urged by public-house orators." In short, Sammut's claim that Australian towns and cities were marked by a clear and hostile social divide between Chinese and Europeans is a gross exaggeration. Like other members of the academic orthodoxy, he has listened, selectively, to the public-house orators and overlooked more mundane but more common views.

The reliable historical sources do not claim the two races lived together in blissful celebration of cultural diversity. The social accord that did exist was not due to any especial virtue among the white inhabitants, and had nothing to do with any moral advocacy of racial acceptance, let alone a theory of multiculturalism. It was simply a product of the everyday workings of trade, commerce, industry and employment. Cathie May probably summed it up best when she said most Queensland communities accepted the Chinese with "apathetic tolerance."

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