A lily in the barnyard of politics: The Institute of Pacific Relations in China, and the New Zealand economists who were brought to central roles through shameless cronyism.

image of the Fourth Biennial Conference, Institute of Pacific Relations, Shanghai China 1931

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Date: Thursday, 18 August
Time: 5 pm – 6 pm
Venue: AM104, Alan MacDiarmid Building, VUW (map to the venue)
Zoom Link https://vuw.zoom.us/j/92093104497


Hailed by an American newspaper in the 1920s as ‘a lily in the barnyard of politics’, the Institute of Pacific Relations was established in the worthy, but as it turned out ultimately fallacious, belief that greater familiarity among the countries of the region would prevent any future conflict. It had as its mandate to commission and carry out research on matters relating to the Asia/Pacific region, and to convene a major international conference every three years. The National Councils of its 14 member states drew upon representatives from business, academia and public life.

J.B.Condliffe, then Professor of Economics at Canterbury University College, was recruited in 1926 as the Hawaii-based Institute’s first Research Secretary. Under his guidance, research programmes focused heavily on China, including two landmark projects, one to build a database on land use in China, and another to examine economic and social problems associated with China’s industrialisation. To support work on these, he recruited first Bill Holland, one of his students at Canterbury, and then Brian Low, another Canterbury graduate. The resulting IPR studies, Land Utilisation in China and Land and Labour in China, made, and continue to make, a fundamental contribution to the understanding of the forces underlying China’s economic development in the Republican era.

About the Speaker

Chris Elder helped open the New Zealand Embassy in Beijing, and served as Ambassador to China from 1993 to 1998. He has researched and published on various aspects of China and New Zealand/China relations. The present paper draws upon interviews carried out in the congenial and insightful company of the late Michael Green 36 years ago, now triumphantly revisited.

RSVP: ChinaCentre@vuw.ac.nz