Chapter 4 Fourth-Class Socialism

In: The Price and Promise of Specialness
Author: Jin Li Lim

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As this chapter (1956–1957) reveals, despite the party-state’s attempts, it was unable to reconcile Overseas Chinese policy (and ‘favourable treatment) with socialist transformation. Indeed, policies that seemed to create bourgeois—or at least, non-socialist—exemptions were made even more contradictory by Mao’s ‘socialist high tide’ and its drive to intensify and accelerate socialist transformation. Yet, Overseas Chinese policy persisted with ‘favourable treatment’, and it was encouraged in this by the party-state’s turn away from the ‘high tide’. ‘Favourable treatment’ had rationalised privileging as the means to securing Overseas Chinese economic utility, and this rationality combined with a growing sense amongst party-state leaders that Mao’s ‘high tide’ was an irrational path to calamity. Yet, this turn was illusory. In the upheaval of 1957, as Mao leveraged crises abroad (in Hungary) and at home (post-Hundred Flowers) to re-assert his authority, the link between Overseas Chinese policy and anti-‘high tide’ sentiments was a liability in a new Anti-Rightist mood, and Overseas Chinese policy practitioners were forced to repudiate ‘favourable treatment’.

The Price and Promise of Specialness

The Political Economy of Overseas Chinese Policy in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1959