Chris Elder

Interesting Times: Some New Zealanders in Republican China

235mm x 156mm
Publication date:
13 June 2024

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The era of Republican China began with the fall of the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty in 1912, and came to an end in 1949, when Mao Tse-tung declared the People’s Republic of China.

The 37 years in between were marked by power struggles between competing warlords, anti-foreign riots, floods and widespread famine, an eight-year conflict with Japan, and the depredations of an ongoing civil war. For the Chinese people, and for foreigners living in China, these were indeed interesting times.

Some New Zealanders were drawn to China by missionary zeal or humanitarian concern, others by commercial opportunities, still others by political curiosity or simply by their appetite for risk. In this book, famous figures like Rewi Alley, James Bertram and Iris Wilkinson (Robin Hyde) rub shoulders with long-term China hands like the YWCA secretary Agnes Moncrieff and the missionary Alice Cook. Based on a series of interviews carried out in 1985–86, and supplemented by wide reading and archival research, Interesting Times is a fascinating introduction to a group of extraordinary New Zealanders.

Chris Elder served twice in the New Zealand Embassy in Beijing, first in the 1970s when it was still Peking, and most recently as ambassador in 1993–97. He is the editor of New Zealand's China Experience: Its Genesis, Triumphs, and Occasional Moments of Less Than Complete Success, and Forty Years On: New Zealand–China Relations Then, Now and in the Years to Come, and two literary anthologies: Old Peking: City of the Ruler of the World and China’s Treaty Ports: Half Love and Half Hate.

Cover photo: James Bertram as war correspondent with 8th Route Army, 120th Division near Shansi, 1937–1938.
Cover design: Todd Atticus

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