Chinese Association

Chinese associations are a vital element in the commercial and, in particular, political lives of new Chinese migrants. As intermediary platforms they connect their members with the embassy, fight anti-Chinese sentiment, and provide public goods.

In its early days the China Association acted as a mercantile body, representing British traders with grievances in China and lobbying the British government on their behalf.


The Association was founded in 1889 to address a growing need for a representative body concerned solely with Chinese issues. It was formed by a group of Old China Hands who met regularly in the Thatched House Club in London and shared stories about their lives back home in China.

The CCBA developed into a more democratic organization in the early twentieth century as it began to compete with new political, clan and county organizations for loyalty of residents in Chinatown. At times factions developed among the leadership.

The Association lobbied the Commonwealth for unemployment forms and office support in Chinese and worked to increase Asian participation in electoral politics. It also organized community support for victims of anti-Chinese racial violence and acted as a central source of direct remittance to help the Chinese Government with their war effort. CCBA also ran a Chinese language school and organised banquets, weddings and activities for its members.


Initially membership was restricted to those who had been in China for some length of time and included representatives of the larger China Houses and Members of Parliament. Later invitations were extended to British residents in Hong Kong, Tientsin and Shanghai who formed branch associations. Besides its own activities, the Association was involved in lobbying the British Government and the Chinese authorities on commercial grievances. This often involved correspondence with the Foreign Office and local Chambers of Commerce.

Immigrants were organized into associations of family names, regions and professions that were modeled on the traditional huiguen system of support in China. The Library has records of these associations that can provide insight into the daily lives of the immigrants. These are located in the Family History Collections and are available for research.


In the 1880s pressure grew for a body to be set up that would represent those who were concerned with trade to China, Hong Kong and Japan. This led to the formation of the China Association, which was founded at a dinner held for ‘gentlemen with some connection with the Far East’ at the Thatched House Club in London on March 4, 1889.

The members were largely traders from the larger China houses but also included British merchants, government officials, and military and civil servants returned from service in China. They took up grievances of British merchants with the Chinese authorities and lobbied for changes to government policies.

The branch shall report its name, person in charge, domicile and activities to the Association for inspection on a regular basis. When academic exchange activities are organized, the branch should notify the office of the Association in advance. The main person in charge of the branch should attend the activities in person if possible, or send personnel to participate.


Providing Chinese students with forums to experience and discuss their cultural heritage is a core mission of CSA. Typical activities include sponsored lectures, annual Chinese holiday celebrations and general body assemblies.

The association also has a number of clubs. These are geared toward specific interests, such as dance, sports or even academic subjects. The club system is a great way to foster unity in the community.

Spokane Chinese Association also organizes cultural show performances and a culture fair. Some of the shows attract audiences of up to 500 people. They showcase talented individuals playing traditional Chinese music instruments and showcasing beautiful Chinese dances. The organization’s members are also known to serve the community with charitable donations. They also sponsor non-Chinese academic or cultural societies to help them be more easily assimilated into their new societies.

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