Edited by Liu Hong and Zhou Min

Nexus of Mobility

Chinese Economic Migration to West Borneo, c. 1740–1850

Hui Kian Kwee (郭慧娟)


In historical studies of Chinese diaspora, an increasing focus is currently being placed on Chinese “organizational genius,” that is, Chinese are said to have been adept at providing mutual aid and promoting economic ventures overseas, and also effective in governing their own internal affairs and fending off racial discrimination in the age of Euro-American imperialism. This paper examines Chinese migration to West Borneo in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It argues that Chinese social imaginaries and organizational forms ultimately relied on two cardinal institutions: the Chinese deity cults and ancestral cults, with their associated rituals. By studying an early case of Chinese migration to Southeast Asia, this paper hopes to lay a foundation for comparative research on similar organizations developed by Fujian and Guangdong people in Taiwan, China and other parts of the world; and argues that the nexus of Chinese mobility and Chinese people’s relatively successful economic achievements should be located in these symbolic institutions.

Reassessing Chinese American Identities

How Adoptees and American Born Chinese (ABCs) Negotiate Chineseness

Andrea Louie (吕美玲)


Comparing and contrasting two of my previous research projects, both of which focus on Chinese American youths, I examine the ways that the circumstances of their upbringings shape their relationships with China as a homeland, with the U.S. as their country of residence, and with their Chinese identities more broadly. In the process, I consider the future of diasporic relationships with the Chinese homeland as they are shaped by the politics of belonging in both the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China (PERC). The first project, conducted as multi-sited research during the 1990s, focuses on American-born Chinese Americans (ABCs) who participate in a Roots-searching program in the San Francisco Bay Area. The second project focuses on Chinese adoptees who, born in China, relinquished by birth families, and adopted, usually by white families in the U.S., share some similarities with ABCs in terms of the ways in which they are racialized in U.S. society.

Transnational but Isolated

A Case Study of the Chinese Evangelical Church in Japan

Yun Zhou (周韵)


Literature on immigrants’ religious activities highlights the importance of transnational ties between the host and home communities. This paper challenges the dominant discourse by looking at a Chinese evangelical church in Chiba, one of the seven prefectures in the Greater Tokyo Area, Japan. This ethnic church is an isolated religious community that grows with limited transnational connections and support. By exploring the structure and membership of this ethnic church, I argue that adopting a transnational approach may downplay the role of religious immigrants in the construction of ethnic religious community. I propose that the growth of this ethnic church with very limited connections with the host country and the homeland can be better understood using the concepts of cultural identity and diaspora. The data in this study originates from my ethnographic fieldwork in Japan, conducted from August 2010 to February 2011.

Shou-li Yeh

This article discusses the relationship between the contemporary Taiwanese peasant household economy and agricultural technology innovation, taking the economic development process involving the Dongshi annual grafting pear as an example. The “annual grafting pear” is the result of a fruit cultivation model pioneered by the peasants of Dongshi in order to overcome the constraint of climate. Temperate pears have a high market value, but raising them in a subtropical region comes at the cost of a several fold increase in labor. Although the government’s local agricultural extension station generally believes that growing annual grafting pears is not in line with the trend of modern agricultural development, peasants have stuck with this labor-intensive fruit cultivation model. Today, annual grafting pears have become the mainstay of Taiwan’s pear industry. Combining participant observation, oral history, and ethnography, this article analyzes the tensions between household consumption needs and labor self-exploitation. It argues that the peasant family economy does not operate according to a purely capitalistic business logic, and that Dongshi’s grassroots agricultural technology innovation will move in the direction of labor-intensifying diversified crops rather than labor-saving single crops. This direction of development is a response to Taiwan’s agricultural crisis, the urban-rural relationship, and the market structure. The birth of annual grafting pears as a product of the collective creation of the peasants in Dongshi reflects a situation common in Taiwan’s rural areas and helps us to rethink the “hidden agricultural revolution” and urban-rural relationships in East Asian industrialized societies.

Yan Huang

Past studies have well documented the atrophy of lineage organizations and functions in rural China after 1949 as well as their resurgence in the post-Mao era. To further the research on lineage organizations and changes in their functions, this article reexamines the role of lineage organizations in the resistance against graveyard removal in Xiatang village of central Jiangxi province. Xiatang villagers attempted to revive traditional clan culture by rebuilding ancestral halls and updating clan genealogies; they also succeeded in defending their nominal ownership of Mt. Qingling by appealing to their ancestral property rights in the struggle against graveyard removal. The recent improvements in villagers’ living conditions, changes in the mode of production in agriculture, and the expansion of market forces have all led to changes in power relations in Xiatang village, in which the revived lineage organizations played a role that is both symbolic and instrumental. Yet, the control of community resources by the administrative and business elites, together with the penetration of state power into rural society through various channels, also effectively eroded lineage influences.

Zhifeng Wang

To win support from all social groups in rural China after the inception of Japan’s full-scale invasion, the CCP introduced the program of “rent and interest reduction” in place of its original radical land policy. Nevertheless, the “25-percent rent reduction” did not have much appeal to owner-cultivators in Shanxi province, where land ownership was dispersed and tenancy not predominant. Money-lending activities largely vanished after the implementation of “reduction of interest rates to 15 percent.” As a result, the Border Region Government had to raise the ceiling on interest rates. Later, to win support of owner-cultivators who had long paid only taxes rather than rents, the CCP modified its policy by confiscating and redistributing the land, houses, and other properties of landlords and rich peasants under the pretext of “Settling Old Accounts” during the struggles against corruption, local bullies, unregistered land, and pro-Japanese collaborators. This, in conjunction with the worsening shortage of resources, the radical mindset, and the vested interests of grassroots cadres, led to the emergence of leftist deviations.