China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
With the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the border between China and Hong Kong--once relatively open--hardened, becoming known in the Cold War era as the "bamboo curtain." Yet new documentary and oral sources reveal a far more variegated experience. Ordinary people at the border negotiated its boundaries as part of everyday life, individuals and officials made use of the border for economic and political gain, and refugees crossed the border during both low and high political tides, including famine and political chaos. This panel proposes a new history of China's Hong Kong border, situated in international context and grounded in everyday realities.
He Bixiao introduces Hong Kong as a nexus in the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda strategy; the New Democracy Publishing Company had, since 1947, connected northeastern China, Hong Kong, and the diaspora via books and pamphlets. Focusing on Chinese refugees who went to Taiwan through Hong Kong and Macau, Angelina Chin charts the identities and changing political fortunes of refugees groomed as "anti-Communist Fighters" by the Kuomindang. Denise Ho examines the local history of oyster producers in the bay between Hong Kong and China, showing how individuals navigated global politics, from everyday working lives to the chaos of the early Cultural Revolution. Finally, studying the border policies of Bao'an County, Taomo Zhou demonstrates that loosening border controls in 1962 was part of a local strategy that included allowing market activity, with implications for the role of Shenzhen in the reform era.