Chinese Labour in South Africa, 1902–10: Race, Violence, and by Rachel K. Bright (auth.)

By Rachel K. Bright (auth.)

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Extra resources for Chinese Labour in South Africa, 1902–10: Race, Violence, and Global Spectacle

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58 The Natal Prime Minister, Harry Escombe, eager to prevent a full-scale revolt, copied almost word for word the US Immigration Act of 1891, which had restricted ‘classes’ of migrants such as the infirm, criminals, and paupers. He also lifted from the American legislation an education test first put before the US Congress in 1891, which called for a reading and writing test for all immigrants over 16 years of age in their native language, itself based on earlier literacy legislation introduced in the southern United States meant to decrease the number of voting African Americans.

79 Chinese labour was definitely not their chosen solution, as both had been actively campaigning against it since June. 80 This was the first time that the mines unanimously agreed to support labour importation from China as their preferred solution to the ‘labour problem’. This unanimity reflected a racialised economic view, which placed their faith in the myth of the Chinese ‘working machine’81 so beloved of industrialists around the world. 82 When H. Ross Skinner returned from the Far East in October 1903 and submitted his report to the Chamber of Mines, it was actually less favourable than many expected, highlighting both the positive and negative stereotypes associated with Chinese ‘coolies’ in California and the Far East.

62 While not specifically vetoing the NSW legislation, he proposed the Natal language test as a more acceptable model. 63 The legislation was not immediately appreciated by white colonials, however. 64 Nor did all colonials believe in the general exclusion of Asian migrants. Companies continued to find the steady supply and cheapness of Asian labour attractive, and even in Natal, those who wished to halt indenture altogether were in the minority. Many simply wanted tighter controls or forced repatriation at the end of indenture contracts.

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