Race you there Book / Publication / Landmark Writing


NameRace you there
Writer(s)Tze Ming Mok
Type of TextNon-fiction


‘Race you there’ is an essay written by Tze Ming Mok, a writer and sociopolitical commentator (and, now, researcher) based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. In 2004, it was selected as the joint winner of the Landfall Essay Competition by judge Vincent O’Sullivan and was widely read and shared after being published online by The Big Idea and in Landfall journal (issue 208).

The essay follows Mok’s experiences, from attending primary school in Mount Roskill in the 1980s to participating in contemporary political movements such as the 2004 hīkoi protesting the ‘foreshore and seabed’ legislation and counter-protests at white supremacist rallies. It considers the political formation of Chinese and Asian New Zealanders and makes a case for Asian New Zealanders to support tino rangatiratanga as one avenue for coming to belong in Aotearoa as tangata tiriti. The tone of the essay is by turns angry, wistful and optimistic.

The Landfall Essay Competition is open to New Zealand writers, encouraging them “to think aloud about New Zealand culture, and to revive and sustain the tradition of vivid, contentious and creative essay writing in this country”. Of Mok’s essay, O’Sullivan commented, “Hers was a drilling eye for what it is to be an outsider, and a sharp assessment of what the inside implies and excludes.”

‘Race you there’ was republished the following year in the anthology Great New Zealand Argument: Ideas about ourselves (2005), edited by Russell Brown and published by Activity Press. At that time it was accompanied by a postscript by Mok, in which she wrote that the essay had:

found its way online and located the people for whom it was made. The response was astounding … There was a common thread to this emotional intensity — not, I think, so much a reaction to the quality of the essay or the originality of its points, than the feeling that ‘we needed this’.

Following the publication of ‘Race you there’, Mok continued to be a vocal advocate and commentator on issues that impacted Chinese and Asian communities in New Zealand, such as race and immigration. She guest edited the Autumn 2006 issue of Landfall, had a column called ‘Yellow Peril’ on the website Public Address, was named as a New Generation Laureate by the Arts Foundation in 2006 and wrote a weekly column in the Sunday Star-Times that same year.

In 2024, the essay was republished in issue 1 of the Satellites magazine, alongside a postscript written by Mok at the end of 2023. In it, she reflects on the 20 years that have passed since the publication of the original essay.


Key awards

2004 — Landfall Essay Competition, joint winner

Last updated: 7 March 2024 Suggest an Edit


Photographed spread from an issue of Landfall magazine

Vincent O'Malley, Judge's comments on the 2004 Landfall Essay Competition in which 'Race You There' was named joint winner, Landfall 208, 2004