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A durian for Sun Yatsen : interwar communism in British Malaya (1926-1942) Belogurova, Anna


The Malayan Communist Party (MCP) is known because of its insurgency against the British government in the 1950s, the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960). This dissertation is about early history of the MCP, in the 1920s and the 1930s. It examines the unintended consequences and contingencies of the revolutionary connections between China, Southeast Asia, and the third Communist International (Comintern) in the shaping of the MCP. This dissertation is based on little-studied MCP sources deposited in the Comintern archive in Moscow. It examines the MCP as a hybrid of communist party and a Chinese association and in the context of interwar ideological globalization that had distinct indigenization and internationalisation trends. By 1930, the unintended consequence of this indigenisation and internationalisation, as shaped by Comintern participation, was the emergence of the discourse of the Malayan nation that the Communists sought to lead to liberation. The ambiguity of the meaning of the Chinese word minzu, at once nation, nationality, and ethnic group, provided the discursive foundation of this MCP nation as the Comintern promoted the establishment of “national” communist parties. This “nation,” i.e. the MCP support base, was taken away from the MCP by its radical language by 1940. The rise of the MCP was conditioned on the anti-Japanese propaganda of the Chinese Nationalist Party (the Guomindang, GMD) in Southeast Asia and Japanese war atrocities against Chinese population of Malaya. This dissertation offers fresh light on the internationalist aspects of the Chinese revolution, the role of the Comintern in the Southeast Asian nationalism, the early Chinese communist party’s relation with Chinese overseas, and the political participation of overseas Chinese (huaqiao) in their host countries. The story of the MCP is a showcase that the history of China is inseparable from the history of the Chinese communities overseas -- and that of the world.

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