Hand-in-Hand, Heart-to-Heart:Qiaowu and the Overseas Chinese
Type of content
Following the violent crackdown on students demonstrating in Tiananmen Square in June 1989, tens of thousands of sympathetic ethnic Chinese and nationals of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from across the globe (hereafter described as the Overseas Chinese or OC1) unified in protest against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). While some were too afraid to speak out, others were much more critical and antagonistic by calling for democratic reform on the mainland.2 Fearing an escalation of anti-CCP sentiment amongst a diaspora crucial to its national interests, Beijing promptly intensified qiaowu gongzuo (hereafter described as qiaowu or OC work) to deal with the precarious situation. It employed a foreign legion of diplomats, attaches from various government ministries and specialist qiaowu cadres to aggressively manage and control strategic OC communities under a comprehensive set of influential tools and persuasive techniques.3 Over the next two decades, the CCP continually developed and improved qiaowu to the extent that it had become more successful with these methods in the current period than any other era – particularly so with new migrants and PRC students. Such prowess became apparent in 2008, when large numbers of the OC again took to the streets in heated protest. This time their response was not in defiance of the regime, but in strong support of China and its leaders. How has qiaowu been able to influence and manage the OC in this way? Why have qiaowu efforts worked with such success? Why has the CPP become so confident in advancing OC work since the crisis of 1989? This thesis explains the nature and development of qiaowu, details its specific work methods, and analyzes the platforms employed to advance relations with the OC diaspora. By assessing a wide range of Chinese language references, primary source policy documents and internal memoranda, this thesis argues that over decades of counter-efforts from rival political factions, gradual cultural assimilation, changes in OC demographics, technology and the international geo-political climate, qiaowu has served as an accomplished and necessary component of the CCP’s modernized propaganda and thought work system for influencing, managing and unifying a heterogeneous population of OC for Beijing’s national interests.