Rachel Leow reviews Home Is Not Here by Wang Gungwu
“No matter where you live in the world, we all share one origin. There is a place for all of you here at home.”
In so many words, this is the single message which the People’s Republic of China’s Overseas Chinese Office (Qiaoban) channels to ethnic Chinese across the world. It is a relatively new sentiment. The idea that ethnic Chinese of foreign nationality (huaqiao) are not ‘blood traitors’ (hanjian) but patriots-in-potentia – talent (rencai) to be lured ‘back home’ to contribute to China’s wealth and power – has not long been in gestation. But since the 1980s, it has been written with ever more depth into the PRC’s long-term visions. Conceived under the KMT and established by the new PRC in 1949, the Qiaoban languished in the Cultural Revolution and was revived by Deng Xiaoping, who saw in the huaqiao a source of support for reform and opening.
Three decades later, Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream’ counts huaqiao, not just Chinese citizens, among its dreamers; his One Belt One Road strategy is designed with huaqiao in mind, as business collaborators with critical local knowledge.