Home Hawkes Bay News and Events Hawke’s...

Hawke’s Bay October Newsletter



Missionaries in China

1921 –1952

Emeritus Prof. Bill Willmott  Canterbury University  

Bill Willmott’s parents went to China as Canadian Methodist educational missionaries in 1921 and were among the last Protestant missionaries to leave China in March 1952. Those thirty years, from the founding of the Chinese Communist Party to the first land reforms, saw China in turmoil, the Japanese invasion and bombing, civil war and finally the victory of the communist-led forces in 1949. 

Last April, Bill Willmott attended the Beijing and Chengdu launch of a book of photographs taken by the Canadian missionaries in Sichuan, including his parents. Bill will describe his parents’ life and work in China and the importance of the book, a new Chinese assessment of the missionary effort.

Date:   2nd November 2012

Time: 7.30pm

Where:  Hastings District Council        Chambers in Lyndon Road.


Hastings Library Presentation Thursday 27 September 2012

Sons of the Soil is a history of Chinese market gardening in New Zealand as told through the personal stories of more than 100 ordinary yet spirited men and women from market gardening communities all around New Zealand. About 50 people attended the event where the Mayor of Hastings Lawrence Yule spoke of the huge contribution that Chinese market gardeners have made to the Hawkes Bay.  Complimentary copies were presented to the Mayor, the Hastings and Central Hawke’s Bay Libraries, Hastings Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools and Karamu College.                   http://www.sonsofthesoil.co.nz


From left: Ken Gee, Hawkes Bay President of the Chinese Growers’ Association, K J Young, Honorary President of the Dominion Federation of New Zealand Chinese Commercial Growers, Lily Lee (Ho Bik Har) one of the authors, Hastings Girls’ High School Principal Geraldine Travers and International Students’ Director Jill Frizzell.



China Book Review  by Matthew Griffiths         

Chinese Lessons, Five Classmates and the Story of the New China by John Pomfret   (Henry Holt & Co, 2005)

John Pomfret was studying Chinese history and culture at Stanford when he decided he wanted to go and live in China to be part of “the greatest show on earth”, the re-emergence of China after decades of self-imposed isolation. 


He first went there as an exchange student in 1980. The book tells the story of some of the classmates he met and their lives before and after attending Nanjing University in the early 1980s. Many of them, and their families, had suffered during the Cultural Revolution and just gaining the opportunity to go to university was challenging, and succeeding was a triumph in itself.


The classmates eventually become variously Communist Party members, teachers, businessmen and officials. The diversity of their lives is also representative of the opening up of China’s economy and society, while offering glimpses of the difficulties that remain. Through the book, as he progressively tells the stories of his classmates, Chinese Lessons combines three stories in one: the lives of his classmates before, during and after their time at university; that of China itself during the 1980s, ‘90s and through to 2004; and John Pomfret’s own experience of China. He studied in Beijing and Nanjing and reports on the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989 as a journalist and his subsequent expulsion, and his being allowed to return to China years later.


The book provides a personal insight into the lives of people in China, and an opportunity to look at wider changes and currents in Chinese society.  From the personal and often harrowing stories of the Cultural Revolution to the opportunities and challenges of the opening up of China, this book provides a glimpse into ways in which some things have changed over time, while others have not.


Pomfret and his subjects each provide their own perspectives on China, from relationships to society and politics – past, present and future. The author approaches the subject with sensitivity and understanding born of his personal experience, as well as a degree of self-deprecating humour.


It’s a fascinating and worthwhile book and I thoroughly recommend it.

Note: Chinese Lessons is available from the Havelock North Public Library.


[Matthew Griffiths is a long time member of the New Zealand China Friendship Society. He loves Chinese food, has visited China many times, studied Mandarin, and attempted to learn Tai Chi. He and his Chinese-born wife Deborah have two bi-lingual children and lived in China from 2008 to 2010 and now Matthew can’t stop reading about it. This is the first in a series of book reviews from Matthew.]


US needs to rethink how to partner China

This is an article from the Chinese Xinhua News Agency dated 23 October 2012.

‘BEIJING – In the last of three rounds of US Presidential debate, both candidates framed China as a partner for the first time, offering a speck of belated comfort, as the country had been portrayed as a monetary cheat and a job thief in their previous face-offs.

In Tuesday’s finale, the two candidates stopped short of vilifying China 100 percent, as Barack Obama admitted, “China is both an adversary but also a potential partner,” and Mitt Romney, fond of bashing China, said, “We can be a partner with China. We don’t have to be an adversary in any way, shape or form”. A few relieving words, however, are quickly overshadowed by traditional campaign tricks of scapegoating and ill-grounded hypotheses. The US President-in-waiting, no matter who is elected, lacks deep understanding of how partners should treat each other.

Romney repeated his threat to designate China a currency manipulator and punish it for intellectual property theft, while Obama continued to parade his “trophy” achievements while in office: doubling US exports to China, the most advantageous exchange rates to American business since 1993, and a special task force focusing on trade. They have relentlessly blamed China to cover up their own inabilities to put the domestic economy on track. Bashing China is easier to score political gains.

The Presidential debate, unsurprisingly, has fallen into a vanity fair for China-bashers who compete to denigrate China, which in fact has little to do with China but everything to do with the losing competitiveness of the world’s superpower. Both candidates vowed to “make China feel pressured to play by rules.”  Rules are not only important to America, but also to China itself. Even Obama himself acknowledges China’s changes in exchange rates, that the Yuan has appreciated by at least 31 percent since 2005, and US exports to China have doubled during his tenure. A more balanced currency regime not only serves to balance trade, but also helps restructure and update China’s exports, a development that is in the interests of the Asian nation.

China needs to stick to its own course and will not surrender to its bottom line. Appreciation of the Yuan by more than one third has generated positive results both in China and the United States. However, going further down that path will run counter to China’s fundamental economic interests, a movement which will be blocked by the Chinese government and Chinese people without hesitation.

As the world’s sole superpower, the United States is the main architect of global rules in arenas ranging from trade to military. It can file cases to the World Trade Organization whenever it finds the situation escaping its control. It can also block emerging Chinese companies with the excuse of threatening national security based on groundless accusations.

Romney, who has been unusually truculent toward China, seemingly decided his stance in the first two debates was too aggressive, toning things down a little and dismissing suggestions that he would start a trade war with China. It seems, fortunately, that the China-bashing game has not spun out of control, as the billionaire who used to profit handsomely from doing business with China knows that the largest and second-largest economies in the world, trade between which equals nearly a half-trillion dollars, could not afford the backlash of tit-for-tat tariffs and eventually all-out economic war.

The candidates should also be mindful of going too far on bashing China, to win votes, since the specificity of their promise leaves them few options but to follow through. But they are strongly expected to wriggle out of their tough promises on China between election and inauguration. If so, why bother to waste time and resources to fire away?’