Cold War Cosmopolitanism: Chang Kuo-sin’s Asia Enterprises and Cultural Legacies

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project scrutinizes the media enterprises established during the 1950s and 1960s by Chang Kuo-sin (1916–2006), with the support of the Asia Foundation (a US-funded private nonprofit organization), to counteract communist cultural influences in Cold War Asia. Taking Hong Kong as a strategic battlefield, Chang founded Asia Press to publish the works of émigré Chinese writers in Hong Kong and Taiwan in order to build up a creative anticommunist Chinese literature. He launched Asia Pictures to produce commercial movies through inter-Asian networks that would propagate Chinese traditions and values.

This project investigates Asia Foundation’s secretive aid to Chang’s media enterprises. At the same time, it probes the impacts and legacies of his Asia enterprises in fostering creativity and cultural consumption in the literary, cinematic, and popular realms. The study conceives the significance of Chinese cosmopolitanism to go beyond a conventional political understanding of Cold War culture as manipulated by the big state players. It examines how the vernacular and the popular were experienced in everyday life through inter-media productions of popular novels, dramas, translations, music, and motion pictures. It also considers the crucial role of colonial Hong Kong as an important source of Chinese-language cultural production in Cold War Asia.

By examining how localized agents and communities wrestled with Cold War politics and harnessed creativity in response to turmoil and conflict, this project investigates the promises and predicaments of Chinese cosmopolitanism. First, it delineates the legacy of Asia Pictures in Chinese-language film history and its competition with leftwing Chinese filmmaking in Hong Kong. Second, to probe the impact of US-funded projects and appraise how the cultural Cold War has shaped multicultural Chinese mentalities, it explores the technology, consumption, readership, and material production of popular fictions, magazines, and translations. Furthermore, it looks into the migratory detours and creative experiences of Chinese intellectuals and writers to understand how their exilic or diasporic movements contributed to the intercultural vision of modern Chinese cosmopolites.

To address these questions necessitates a combination of archival study, historical contextualization, and inter-media/textual examination. To this end, the PI will conduct interregional and trans-Pacific research in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and US. The research outcome will be a number of international conference presentations, refereed journal articles, and a book manuscript.
Effective start/end date1/01/1931/12/22


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