What is it about?

Taylor and Xu's 'Chineseness and the Cold War' is an exploration of the realities of being a diasporic Chinese beginning with the Chinese Civil War and going into the Cold War. It details how diasporic Chinese ‘were pulled at least three ways’ by the Republic of China (ROC), the United States (US) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), each state using their definition of Chinese identity to weaponise propaganda to serve their own particular wartime agenda. Where the first two states used propaganda to infuse the overseas Chinese with anti-communistic fervour, the PRC tried to use it to mobilise the overseas Chinese, activating them like sleeper cells to oppose their host societies. Taylor and Xu argue that the rivalry over the definition of ‘Chineseness’ was, at its heart, a Cold War struggle for cultural control over a large part of Southeast Asia’s population.

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Why is it important?

The book's importance is in how it exemplifies propaganda's use in contesting identities. This is a pattern that we see repeated in today's headlines, such as using online social media for the purposes of disinformation, such as the Facebook posts used against the Rohingya. As such, books like 'Chineseness and the Cold War' remind readers of the long history of such propaganda vis-à-vis identity and its connection to diasporic communities.


I hope this review leads readers to deeper explorations of how fractured cultural identity can too easily be weaponised against diasporic populations.

Diana Gill

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Chineseness and the Cold War: Contested Cultures and Diaspora in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong , by Jeremy E. Taylor and Lanjun Xu, eds., Diaspora Studies, November 2022, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/09763457-bja10007.
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