Mobility, intimacy and decolonisation: the 'Chinese Australian problem' after 1949

 Sophie Loy-Wilson

In the first half of the twentieth century, a significant number of mixed-race Chinese Australian families made use of imperial networks to establish families and businesses in both Australia and China, settling mostly in the treaty-port city of Shanghai. There they formed 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; some husbands and wives would not be reunited until the relaxation of these restrictions in the 1970s. This moment of rapture caused a flurry of correspondence between families, Australian and British government officials and international agencies such as the Red Cross on the topic of Chinese Australian mobility. Correspondence written at this time, and reflecting back on decades of movement and inter-racial marriage, shows how Chinese Australian families shaped imperial networks and laid the foundations for Australia's economic engagement with China in the twenty-first century. This correspondence also reveals that thinking through the ‘Chinese Australian problem’ in the 1950s influenced Australian government policies towards decolonising Asia at the tail-end of the British Empire.

About the Speaker

Sophie Loy-Wilson is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Laureate Research Centre for International History at the University of Sydney, currently writing a book entitled Australia and the China Trade: a Cultural History from 1850 (forthcoming with Routledge in 2015).

After the Seminar

To allow for informal discussion, the seminar will be followed by a dinner with the guest speaker at 6:15pm. The location of the restaurant will be announced at the seminar.
All are welcome, though those who attend will need to pay for their own food and drinks. As reservations must be made at the restaurant, please RSVP by noon of the day before the seminar to

The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the China Institute, the Research School of Asia and the Pacific, and the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University.


Sophie Loy-Wilson

Dates & times

Thursday, 8 October 2015

4.00pm - 5.30pm


Seminar Rooms, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU

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