In mid-April of this year, China and the Solomon Islands, a nation in the South Pacific, announced their intention to enter into a security deal that would allow Chinese warships a base in the South Pacific.1 The hope was that neighboring nations would join in a wider pact, a move that has been met with much resistance in the region and globally.2 Many of us who live north of the equator may have found ourselves grabbing an atlas or checking online maps to see where this was taking place. Admittedly, news from the South Pacific does not often feature prominently, and now suddenly it has landed on the front pages of our newspapers.
Given current events, this issue of the ChinaSource Quarterly is a timely one. While we may see alarming headlines and read bleak geopolitical analysis of what China is up to in that part of the world, this issue reminds of what God is doing in the region.
Reading this issue has been an incredible educational journey for me, making me realize how little I know about not only New Zealand, but about the South Pacific region in general. While I have known a lot of “Kiwis” in my life (from growing up in a missionary community in Pakistan), most of my knowledge is of the stereotypical variety—grand fjords and sheep farms. Though I’ve never read the books or seen the movies, fans of The Lord of the Rings movies probably remember the films’ settings when they think of New Zealand.
Here are five things that I learned from reading this issue.
- The immigration and diaspora story for Chinese in New Zealand is not much different from stories in North America and Europe. They originally went to the country as laborers, and over the years have experienced many of the same challenges of discrimination, a sense of cultural isolation, and generational difference in attitudes towards identity. At the same time, they have become an important and vital immigrant community that contributes to the dynamism of the nation.
- There is a renewed sense that God is calling the Chinese church in New Zealand to be part of the global advancement of the gospel. They may be geographically isolated, but they have a key role to play in what God is doing worldwide.
- There are three main regional groupings of the South Pacific nations: Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia, of which New Zealand is a part. Other nations in Polynesia include Samoa, Kiribati, the Cook Islands, and French Polynesia. Most of these nations have growing communities of recent immigrants from the People’s Republic of China. God is giving the New Zealand churches a vision to reach these diaspora communities that are closer to home.
- There is a rich history of mission work from New Zealand to China, beginning with Annie Harrison in 1891. The last Kiwi missionary left China in the 1950s, but mission work continued in Hong Kong and among the growing Chinese diaspora communities in New Zealand. When China opened up again in the 1980s, Kiwi Christians arrived and continued to make significant contributions.
- I am wholly deficient in my knowledge of the history and culture of New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands. It is time for me to add some books to my reading list. I welcome recommendations.
As we continue to look for ways to tell stories of the Chinese diaspora communities worldwide, we are grateful to Peter Anderson and his team of talented writers for giving us a glimpse into what God is doing in, among, and through his people in New Zealand and the greater South Pacific.
- Kate Lyons and Dorothy Wickham, “The Deal That Shocked the World: Inside the China-Solomons Security Pact,” The Pacific Project: Solomon Islands, The Guardian, April 20, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/apr/20/the-deal-that-shocked-the-world-inside-the-china-solomons-security-pact.
- “China Fails to Strike Security Deal with Pacific Nations,” Deutsche Welle (DW), May 30, 2022, https://p.dw.com/p/4C1aZ.
Image credit: John Morton via Flickr
Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio