Abstract?? 1978 Dr. Lesley Dixon
Late in the nineteenth century, when cultural and commercial contact between China and Australia was minimal and the Australian public felt a deep, ingrained distaste for its own Chinese immigrant population, Australian missionaries began to join the Christian missionary enterprise in China. The initial stimulus for the movement was, however, provided largely by British missions and their deputationists who visited Australia in the 1890s. The first stage of the movement was not, therefore, an expression of the burgeoning Australian nationalism in which distrust and loathing of the Chinese immigrant was an integral element. Furthermore, it continued as it began. Between 1888 and 1953, more than 500 missionaries worked in China, the great majority in British, not exclusively Australian, mission organizations. The endeavour was a predominantly Protestant phenomenon, characterized by a high proportion of evangelists, a small core of post-secondary or tertiary-trained professionals, and a large number of women. Apart from a few outstanding contributions to China's social welfare and Sinology, most missionaries were fully occupied with converting the Chinese to Christianity. Although initially and continually stimulated by influences which were external to the Australian environment, the movement had its own internal logic. It was highly self-propagating, drawing a large proportion of its members from friends and families within the ecclesia, the religious community. It did not, however, constitute a homogeneous community. This was due to the wide differences in the ethos and methods of the mission societies involved. Once in China, the great majority of missionaries obeyed the rules and followed the policies of the British societies to which they belonged. They responded to the Chinese and conditions in China in this capacity and adopted the image of Christian internationalism which those societies increasingly projected to accommodate to the demands of Chinese nationalism. Most missionaries therefore voluntarily suppressed their Australian identity. Australian branches of mission societies, with few exceptions, followed suit. As a consequence of the way the movement began, and this effort to remain supranational, Australian missionary interest in China never harmonized with developing Australian secular interest. The missionary movement peaked in 1923 and again in 1933 in response to favourable conditions for Christianity in China; secular interest developed after 1938 and during World War II in response to China's valuable resistance to the common enemy, Japan. For the above reasons, and because of their own mission-centrism, Australian missionaries were not effective translators of the Chinese culture to Australia; nor did they transmit Australian secular attitudes to China. Those Chinese who, in the last stages of the endeavour, were aware of the identity of the Australian missionary, saw him as the colonial subject of British imperial domination. Finally, the missionary body's effect on China's culture and historical development is best assessed in terms of its role as an intellectual stimulus to the social revolution which fomented throughout the undertaking, climaxed in 1949, and rejected the entire Western missionary enterprise.