Diaspora of Chinese Intellectuals in the Cold War Era

From Hong Kong to the Asia-Pacific Region, 1949–1969


从香港到亚太地区, 1949–1969
In: Journal of Chinese Overseas
Kenneth Kai-chung Yung (容启聪) Department of Chinese Culture, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hong Kong China

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On the eve of the Communist takeover in 1949, a considerable number of Chinese intellectuals were reluctant to live under Communist rule. They began their self-exile and the search for a new home outside China. Many travelled to places on China’s periphery such as Taiwan and Hong Kong. Others continued their journey and finally settled down in Southeast Asia and North America. Sojourning abroad, most of these self-exiled intellectuals still kept a close eye on Chinese politics and society. They were eager to promote their political ideal for a liberal-democratic China in the overseas Chinese communities. However, they were at the same time facing the challenge of assimilation into local society. This article traces the journey of the self-exiles in the 1950s and 1960s from Hong Kong to Southeast Asia and North America. It examines several representative figures and studies their activities in their new place of settlement. It argues that, although the self-exiles largely maintained a strong commitment to the future of their homeland, they varied in their degree of assimilation into their new homes. Age was not a key factor in their decision to adapt to the local community. Instead, the existence of a politically and economically influential Chinese population played a more important role in such a decision. Intellectuals who lived in Hong Kong or Southeast Asia were more willing to adjust their life to the locality, while those who went to North America were less attached to the local society.

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