China's Southeast Asia: Territory, People, Civilization, and Europe's Fear

  • LIU, Oiyan (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


“Our countrymen were the earliest people that arrived in Nanyang [i.e. Southeast Asia]. If our country [i.e. China] had the political ability, it would have been our territory long time ago. But this is something that our ancestors were not able to complete... Therefore, now we have the task to bring it to completion. We have to spread and glorify the civilization of our country, so that our civilization would be planted and rooted in Nanyang.” (Quoted from Liang Qichao, Chinan Weekly, 13 January 1923; emphasis added by Oiyan Liu)

“The Chinese were better off in Malaya before the English came: England from the West, and America from the East are crippling... We Chinese opened Malaya - it ought to be ours.” (Quoted from the Malayan Bulletin of Political Intelligence, 1 April 1925; emphasis added by Oiyan Liu)

Why and under what circumstances did these words emerge in the 1920? This project looks at how the late Qing imperial state, early Republican state, Chinese intellectuals from Southern China, and Southeast Asian Chinese (Nanyang Huaqiao) viewed Southeast Asia in the last decades of European colonialism. It looks at the conflicting notions of political legitimacy to control Southeast Asian territory, its people, and Chinese and Southeast Asian Chinese views of “the European colonizer.” This research project seeks to understand the relationship between Chinese vis-à-vis Western notions of sovereignty on the one hand, and the tightening of border control, migration policies, and the changing definitions of the “colonial subject” on the other hand. Preliminary research findings reveal that Chinese claims of political legitimacy over Southeast Asia and British border and migration control peaked in the 1920s. Therefore, although this project covers the period from 1900 to 1928, it will focus on the discourse of sovereignty and territory in the second decade of the twentieth century
Effective start/end date7/10/146/10/17


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