History (post-1949)

Why 1949?

Any date is arbitrary but 1949 is an interesting choice because is represents a turning point not so much in Australian history as in the history of China – the point at which China began to re-establish itself as a major global force. This is a perspective that allows the history of Chinese Australia, including the gradual dismantling of the White Australia policy (and its construction for that matter) to be seen in relation to international and transnational relations as well as through the more usual limits of the Australian nation-state.

The six-part division here does not claim to be a comprehensive history of Chinese Australia after 1949. Rather it is a very preliminary overview that seeks to begin to tease out some of the themes and influences on that history. It is hoped that its very limitations and omissions will inspire further work in a history that remains largely unwritten.

Again, the decade-by-decade approach is simplistic but is one that helps to highlight some of the major issues. Thus in the period immediately following 1949, when the White Australia policy was still nominally intact, can be seen the restrictive circumstances within which Chinese Australians were then forced to live. These circumstances began to change in the 1960s due to factors national and transnational. By the 1970s the White Australia policy could be considered dead if not forgotten as the new social experiment of multiculturalism took its place. In the 1980s the balance of national and transnational factors can be seen to have shifted very much toward the latter as events in Beijing set the stage for even greater changes in the 1990s. Finally the opening decades of the 21st century are ones in which perceptions of things Chinese are beginning to impact upon how Chinese Australian history is being researched and written, both before and after 1949.

Other overviews

Chinese – Shirley Fitzgerald