Chinese Australians in Shanghai

China Studies Centre Seminar Series, University of Sydney

Chinese Australians in Shanghai: Stories from the Kwok Family Archive
Sophie Loy-Wilson

12:00-1:30pm, Wednesday 7 June 2017
New Law School Annexe SR 346, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus, University of Sydney

In the first half of the twentieth century, a significant number of Chinese Australian families returned from Australia to China settling mostly in the treaty port city of Shanghai. Among the most prominent of these families were the Kwoks who managed the Wing On Department Store (永安百货). The Kwoks were part of a unique community that traveled frequently between Australia and China up until the 1950s when frontiers slammed shut after the Chinese Communist Party banned emigration and imposed strict entry/exit controls on the movement of people and capital. This moment of rapture caused a flurry of communication between families, Australian and British government officials and international agencies such as the Red Cross on the topic of overseas Chinese rights to Australian citizenship. Correspondence written at this time shows how Chinese Australian families such as the Kwoks responded to the exclusionary practices of white settler societies encapsulated by the infamous White Australia Policy. This correspondence also reveals that thinking through the problem of Chinese Australian citizenship in the 1950s influenced Australian government policies towards decolonising Asia at the tail-end of the British Empire.

Dr Loy-Wilson in a faculty member of the Department of History at the University of Sydney where she specialises in the history of Australia’s engagement with China. Prior to taking up a position in the Department of History at the University of Sydney, she worked as a Postdoctoral fellow in the Laureate Research Program in International History, a Lecturer and Faculty Member at Deakin University and as a research fellow in the ‘Contemporary Histories’ program at the Alfred Deakin Institute. She has also worked with Chinese Australian community groups to preserve the archives of the overseas Chinese diaspora in Australia. Her first book, Australians in Shanghai: Race, Rights and Nation in Treaty Port China, was published in February 2017.