Theses Doctoral

Nationalist China in the Postcolonial Philippines: Diasporic Anticommunism, Shared Sovereignty, and Ideological Chineseness, 1945-1970s

Kung, Chien Wen

This dissertation explains how the Republic of China (ROC), overseas Chinese (huaqiao), and the Philippines, sometimes but not always working with each other, produced and opposed the threat of Chinese communism from the end of World War II to the mid-1970s. It is not a history of US-led anticommunist efforts with respect to the Chinese diaspora, but rather an intra-Asian social and cultural history of anticommunism and nation-building that liberates two close US allies from US-centric historiographies and juxtaposes them with each other and the huaqiao community that they claimed. Three principal arguments flow from this focus on intra-Asian anticommunism. First, I challenge narrowly territorialized understandings of Chinese nationalism by arguing that Taiwan engaged in diasporic nation-building in the Philippines. Whether by helping the Philippine military identify Chinese communists or by mobilizing Philippine huaqiao in support of Taiwan, the ROC carved out a semi-sovereign sphere of influence for itself within a foreign country. It did so through institutions such as schools, the Kuomintang (KMT), and the Philippine-Chinese Anti-Communist League, which functioned transnationally and locally to embed the ROC into Chinese society and connect huaqiao to Taiwan. Through these groups, the ROC shaped the experiences of a national community beyond its territorial boundaries and represented itself as the legitimate “China” in the world.
Second, drawing upon political theory, I argue that the anticommunist relationship between the ROC, the Philippines, and the Philippine Chinese constituted a form of what I call shared, non-territorial sovereignty. Nationalist China did not secure influence over Chinese in the Philippines by exerting military or economic pressure, as a neocolonial regime might. Vast disparities in power did not obtain between Manila and Taipei, as they did between them and Washington. Rather, for reasons of law, culture, linguistic incapacity, and ideology, the Philippines selectively outsourced the management of its Chinese residents to the ROC. In turn, both depended on the Chinese being able to govern themselves with state support, coercive and otherwise. The Philippine Chinese, as in colonial times, were thus semi-autonomous actors who participated in the construction of shared sovereignty after World War II by forging ties with states to advance their anticommunist agenda. This three-way relationship provides a framework for thinking about postcolonial sovereignty in East Asia that focuses on relations of relative equality between states and the relative autonomy of the Chinese as a minority population, rather than between dominant and dominated or in terms of territory.
Nationalist China and the Philippines’ nation-building projects had profound consequences for the Philippine Chinese. While these peoples were in many respects acted upon by the ROC and Philippine states through legal and coercive means, they by no means lacked agency. Rather, they performed their agency as consensual participants in making anticommunism. In focusing on them, the dissertation shifts from international and transnational history to social and cultural history and the history of civic life. Existing scholarship, whether in the social sciences or Sinophone Studies, largely depicts the postcolonial hua subject as a non-ideological businessman or cultural producer. I argue, by contrast, that the overseas Chinese could be eminently ideological and politically active. From informing on suspected Chinese communists to the ROC and Philippine states to proclaiming their loyalties to the ROC and Chiang Kai-shek, anticommunist social practices enabled Philippine huaqiao to come to terms with being legally disadvantaged and ideologically suspect minorities in their country of residence. Unlike racial and cultural Chineseness, which they could or would not give up, they could and did choose to behave ideologically; and in doing so, they legitimized their community to the Philippine state and Filipino society.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Lean, Eugenia Y.
Armstrong, Charles K.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 10, 2018