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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 17. July 18th, 1973

NZ Students Against Imperialism — When in Shanghai..

NZ Students Against Imperialism

When in Shanghai...

The New Zealand delegation in China forged another link of friendship with Chinese workers on American Independence Day, July 4.

The delegation flew into Shanghai late that day from Kwangchow (Canton). Feeling extremely tired after a hectic three days and a long flight, the 23-member party was taken to the Peace Hotel for a late meal. To the disgust of most members of the party, a group of what appeared to be every American in Shanghai was seated at a nearby table, drunkenly celebrating July 4.

At first with patience, and then with growing anger, the New Zealand students endured the boorish antics of the Americans, who appeared to be anxious to exhibit every failing of the white "master race" overseas.

Armed with bottles of bourbon and calling loudly for service from the hotel staff, the Americans launched into several maudlin choruses of "I Want to Go Home" and other bizarre songs. An American flag — a much-hated symbol in imperialist-ruled Shanghai in former times — disfigured one wall while weaving, staggering Americans disfigured the whole room.

As the songs continued, the endurance of some students snapped and they urged the Americans to go home by all means. This suggestion, which would have been considered somewhat impolite by the Chinese, had little effect.

The Americans were being extremely rude to their hosts, the Chinese, so the New Zealanders decided to take action. They did not wish to be mistaken for Americans, or associated with them.

Photo of Ted Sheenan smoking a cigarette

The problem was how to demonstrate to the Chinese that New Zealanders were not the same breed as the Americans, while at the same time, not insulting the Americans, which would embarrass their Chinese hosts.

The situation was resolved by members of the delegation who had forseen such an occasion arising.

They rose and chorussed in Chinese "Down with U.S. imperialism!"

Since the Americans did not understand what had been said, they could not feel insulted and the Chinese were not embarrassed. Since the Chinese did understand, they got the message that the New Zealanders were not associated and did not approve of the Americans.

The Chinese staff approached the delegation and complimented them on their command of the Chinese language. This led to a round of mutual compliments, which were drowned out by the Americans bursting into maudlin, chauvinistic songs. They were defeated by the united Chinese staff and New Zealand students rendering a fortissimo version of the Chinese song "Unity is Strength."

It was a small incident, but extremely valuable in terms of the delegation's mission to promote friendship between the New Zealand and Chinese peoples. A few games of table tennis further developed the friendship between the hotel staff and the students.