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The Coup that Laid the Fear of China - Gough Whitlam in Beijing, 1971


Dr Stephen FItzgerald AO | The Whitlam Legacy vol 2

In July 1971 Gough Whitlam as Leader of the Opposition ventured to the People’s Republic of China. Accompanying him on that trip was a motley crew of Labor parliamentarians, political advisers, China experts and journalists. Given that Australia did not recognise the Chinese Government, there was no diplomatic representative and no official record (at least, not on the Australian side).

Stephen FitzGerald was a key member of Whitlam’s party. He was fluent in Mandarin and was a highly respected authority on China, whose frustrations with the prevailing China policy appeared to have prematurely ended his career in the Australian foreign service.

Gough described that ’71 expedition as the “most exciting and most exacting” he ever made. FitzGerald, in the account you have before you, concludes that “There is nothing in Australian history to compare with that China visit”.  

FitzGerald’s evocative telling of the story in this ‘part memoir’ captures the passions and tensions, the enthusiasms and the political daring of the adventure that it was. More than this, it elucidates its historical significance. Deep within its folds you will find more than a few pointers to the challenges confronting contemporary policy-making concerning our relationship with China.

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