Chinese Colonial Entanglements: Commodities and Traders in the Southern Asia Pacific, 1880–1950

Hardback: $68.00
ISBN-13: 9780824897604
Published: July 2024

Additional Information

234 pages | 14 b&w illustrations
  • About the Book
  • Chinese Colonial Entanglements takes a new geographical approach to understanding the Chinese diaspora, shining a light on Chinese engagement in labor, trade, and industry in the British colonies of the southern Asia Pacific. Starting from the 1880s, a decade when British colonization was rapidly expanding and establishing new industries and townships, this volume covers the period up to 1950, including the 1930s when economic competition saw new racialized immigration restrictions, and the 1940s when Chinese traders found new opportunities. The editors, Julia T. Martínez, Claire Lowrie, and Gregor Benton, bring together nine historians of Chinese diaspora in an effort to break down the boundaries of traditional area studies. Collectively, the chapters offer fresh comparative and transnational perspectives on economic entanglements across a region bounded by the Malay archipelago, Australia, New Zealand, and the islands of the western Pacific. Histories of white settler colonies such as Australia have tended to view Chinese diasporic experiences through the lens of exclusionary politics and closed borders. This book challenges such interpretations, bringing to the fore Chinese economic endeavors that connected Australia with Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    The volume begins with an introduction that makes the case for a regional approach to Chinese diaspora history. This is followed by chapters on colonial commodity production where Chinese traders and workers were central to the development of colonial banana, phosphate, and furniture industries. These industries reflect the diversity of Chinese roles, from small business owners to indentured workers for British colonial enterprise. The book then explores the economic activities of Chinese business elite from revenue farming to intercolonial trading and rural retail. It points to colonial restrictions on business development and explains how Chinese enterprises sought to overcome restrictions through relationships with colonial leaders and by mobilizing Chinese family and transnational business networks in case studies from British North Borneo, Australia, and Samoa. Relying on diverse sources, including archival correspondence, Chinese-language newspapers, personal letters and oral histories, the authors reveal the importance of social, familial, and political connections in shaping the relationships between the colonial authorities and Chinese workers and traders.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Julia T. Martínez, Editor

      Julia T. Martínez is a professor of history at the University of Wollongong.
    • Claire Lowrie, Editor

      Claire Lowrie is associate professor of history at the University of Wollongong.
    • Gregor Benton, Editor

      Gregor Benton is emeritus professor at Cardiff University.


    • Natalie Fong
    • Peter Gibson
    • Mei-fen Kuo
    • Nicholas Surany
    • Danny Wong Tze Ken
    • Renzhe Zhang
    • Sophie Loy-Wilson