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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The overseas Chinese areas of rural Guangdong and socialist transformation, 1949-1956 Peterson, Glen


This thesis examines the socialist transformation of rural China between 1949-1956 within a particular local context: that of the Overseas Chinease areas of rural Guangdong. It proceeds from a theoretical discussion of the various perspectives and works which have informed western understanding of this period in recent Chinese history, with special emphasis on the need to penetrate beyond China-wide generalizations and cultivate an informed sense of local differentiation. With a view to such, the thesis focusses upon the Overseas Chinese areas of rural Guangdong, which represent at once one of the most significant social realities of South China, as well as one of the Chinese Communist Party's most intractable historical inheritances. The social and economic legacies of mass emigration are first described, and the reader is then introduced to the Party's emerging contradictory view of the Overseas Chinese after 1949. The heart of the thesis examines the conflict and tensions of promoting socialist transformation in the Overseas Chinese areas coincident with the promulgation, beginning in 1954, of a series of privileges for domestic Overseas Chinese (returned Overseas Chinese and family dependents) aimed at attracting investment and remittances to the PRC. It is argued that socialist transformation in the Overseas Chinese areas of Guangdong was characterized by a deep-seated ideological uncertainty and confusion surrounding the proper role and status of domestic Overseas Chinese in socialist society. The "united front" aims of domestic Overseas Chinese policy clashed directly with the class-based aims and strategy of socialist transformation, producing not only ideological uncertainties, but considerable bureaucratic confusion on the ground as well. As a group, it is argued, the domestic Overseas Chinese were particularly poorly equipped and ill-disposed to participate in the newly emerging socialist rural order.

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