chapter  3
16 Pages

Gossip about stars: Newspapers and Pop Culture China

ByCHUA BENG HUAT

The presence of ethnic Chinese across the globe is an available empirical resource for the organizing of transnational Chinese subjectivities and ‘communities’ for different purposes at hand. There has been no lack of illustrative instances, since the late nineteenth century, of how this dispersed and disparate body of people have been activated, even against the wills of individuals within it, to be discursively constructed as a ‘diasporic community’ and politically mobilized to promote different ‘Chinese’ causes. In modern political history, this population may be properly addressed as a ‘diaspora’ in the late nineteenth century because an overwhelming majority of its members were first-generation immigrants who were oriented to a ‘home’ in China. Those born outside China were also diasporic by default, as a consequence of being denied citizenship in the countries of birth and residence.1 Under those circumstances, the politics of China was a constant factor that activated and divided this diasporic population into different camps, with different ideas about how to save China and lift the Chinese people out of its decaying dynastic, imperial regime and stifling traditions, so as to propel both into the modern world. For example, the Southeast Asian fragment of this global diasporic population was mobilized, at different times, to be united in support against the Japanese invasion of China, to be divided in allegiance to the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party during the civil war, and to vicariously take pride in the PRC detonation of its first atomic bomb in the early 1950s.