Angelina ChinOct 5, 2023
Chinese Migrants in Hong Kong and the Southern Periphery During the Cold War
Columbia University Press 2023
The conventional story of Hong Kong celebrates the people who fled the mainland in the wake of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. In this telling, migrants thrived under British colonial rule, transforming Hong Kong into a cosmopolitan city and an industrial and financial hub. Unsettling Exiles: Chinese Migrants in Hong Kong and the Southern Periphery During the Cold War (Columbia UP, 2023) recasts identity formation in Hong Kong, demonstrating that the complexities of crossing borders shaped the city’s uneasy place in the Sinophone world.
Angelina Y. Chin foregrounds the experiences of the many people who passed through Hong Kong without settling down or finding a sense of belonging, including refugees, deportees, “undesirable” residents, and members of sea communities. She emphasizes that flows of people did not stop at Hong Kong’s borders but also bled into neighboring territories such as Taiwan and Macau. Chin develops the concept of the “Southern Periphery”—the region along the southern frontier of the PRC, outside its administrative control yet closely tied to its political space. Both the PRC and governments in the Southern Periphery implemented strict migration and deportation policies in pursuit of border control, with profound consequences for people in transit. Chin argues that Hong Kong identity emerged from the collective trauma of exile and dislocation, as well as a sense of being on the margins of both the Communist and Nationalist Chinese regimes during the Cold War. Drawing on wide-ranging research, Unsettling Exiles sheds new light on Hong Kong’s ambivalent relationship to the mainland, its role in the global Cold War, and the origins of today’s political currents.
Angelina Y. Chin is associate professor of history at Pomona College. She is the author of Bound to Emancipate: Working Women and Urban Citizenship in Early Twentieth-Century China and Hong Kong (2012).
Li-Ping Chen is a teaching fellow in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California. Her research interests include literary translingualism, diaspora, and nativism in Sinophone, inter-Asian, and transpacific contexts.