Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Rats Deserting a Sinking Ship- Chinese Bail out of China

Posted by w_thames_the_d on August 15, 2014

If there is one thing Chinese despise its other Chinese and their homeland, or so their actions show. They are bailing out in record numbers, in hopes of living with real humans. Their desire is to assimilate, a thing few will ever do.

The good news is that once they live with civilized people, the communist party still tracks down the Chinese and forces them to bend to Chinese demands. If it comes down to war with China, this group will be our downfall.


The decision to go is often a mix of push and pull. The elite are discovering that they can buy a comfortable lifestyle at surprisingly affordable prices in places such as California and the Australian Gold Coast, while no amount of money can purchase an escape in China from the immense problems afflicting its urban society: pollution, food safety, a broken education system. The new political era of President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, has created as much anxiety as hope.

Another aspect of this massive population outflow hasn’t yet drawn much attention. Whatever their motives and wherever they go, those who depart will be shadowed by the organs of the Leninist state they’ve left behind. A sprawling bureaucracy—the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council—exists to ensure that distance from the motherland doesn’t dull their patriotism. Its goal is to safeguard loyalty to the Communist Party.

This often sets up an awkward dynamic between Chinese arrivals and the societies that take them in. While the newcomers try to fit in, Beijing makes every effort to use them in its campaign to project its political values, enhance its global image, harass its opponents and promote the use of standard Mandarin Chinese over the dialects spoken in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

In 1989, when the Tiananmen Square massacre triggered an outflow of traumatized students and shattered the Party’s image among overseas Chinese communities, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office kicked into high gear with a propaganda campaign to repair the damage. It proved highly successful.

The political scientist James Jiann Hua To, the author of “Qiaowu: Extra-Territorial Policies for the Overseas Chinese,” says that the campaign “turned around the way most overseas Chinese look at China.” (Read a Q&A with James Jiann Hua To.)

The effort continues. It is subtle—a hearts-and-minds campaign that works through overseas Chinese newspapers, websites (digital “New Chinatowns,” in propaganda-speak), schools, youth groups and church organizations.

The results show up in “patriotic” street activities. In 2008, for instance, well-organized Chinese students guarded the Olympic torch as it went around the world ahead of the Beijing Games, attracting raucous protests from Tibetan independence activists and other hostile groups. The following year, Chinese students disrupted the Melbourne Film Festival when it screened a movie about the life of exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, whom Beijing accuses of stirring up separatist agitation in its Xinjiang region. Similar protesters dog the footsteps around the world of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, whom Beijing also accuses of “splittist” activities.

Foreigners sometimes have a hard time understanding why Beijing expends so much effort countering threats, real or imagined, from Chinese opponents overseas, including the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement. But China’s leaders are haunted by history. To an extraordinary degree, the destiny of modern China has been shaped by the Chinese who left. The overseas Chinese of Southeast Asia provided critical support for Sun Yat-sen’s 1911 revolution, which toppled the Qing.

The dynamic works the other way too. When Deng needed money and expertise to unlock the entrepreneurial energies of China in the early 1980s, he first tapped the mega-rich Chinese tycoons in Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia, whose factories populated his Special Economic Zones.

But China’s cross-border political activities are creating unease. Consider Australia—one of the most popular destinations for Chinese students, emigrants and tourists, and a country where Mandarin Chinese is now the second-most widely spoken language after English.

“Chinese Australians are being lectured, monitored, organized and policed in Australia on instruction from Beijing as never before,” wrote John Fitzgerald of Swinburne University of Technology, one of the country’s foremost China experts, in an article published by the Asan Forum, a South Korean think tank.

In the U.S., a vigorous debate has broken out in academic circles about the role on American campuses of Confucius Institutes, which are sponsored by the Chinese government and offer Mandarin-language classes, along with rosy cultural views of China. Critics say these institutes threaten academic independence; supporters say they offer valuable language training that would not otherwise be available. In June, the American Association of University Professors stepped into the controversy and recommended that universities “cease their involvement” with the institutes unless they can gain “unilateral control” over them.



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