Qiaoxiang and managing overseas Chinese affairs in contemporary North China: The case of Changyi county and its sojourners

Change log
Li, Xiafei 

Changyi County, which is located on the southern coastline of the Bohai Sea by the Wei river, enjoys a rich history of sending out ‘sojourners’, who have explored the world and then returned home. Being the major producing area of jianchou (rough silk made by wild silkworm), Changyi sojourners began sell silk in Southeast Asia, the Peninsular India, the Korean Peninsula, and Tsarist Russia, starting during the time of the Qing dynasty. Many sojourners returned to their hometowns, while others were trapped abroad by wars. Such frequent flows of international interactions caused Changyi to gain the fame of being a qiaoxiang (侨乡) in North China. Many different but interrelated actors—such as sojourners, returnees, relatives of sojourners, and government officials managing overseas Chinese affairs—shaped and were shaped by qiaoxiang society, which features the tricky practice of ‘crossing the border of the circle of the political system’ (tizhi, 体制). Such interactions between the government authority and each individual have constructed a unique space in Changyi that forms the social-political environment of qiaoxiang society. Furthermore, in such an environment, people’s ideas about nation and home are strongly influenced by the clash of their traditional values with the transnational nature of their own experiences. Moreover, the qiaoxiang society is also multi-layered, divided between elites and non-elites. The stories and interactions between these two groups people also draw allows for a more detailed understanding of the differences in power among members of the Changyi local community. Furthermore, with the rise of China as an international power, a new group of sojourners emerged—those who began to go abroad after the reform and opening-up. Their practices and new features have brought new challenges and changes to the old qiaoxiang. Lastly, as qiaoxiangs are embedded in the larger Chinese society, a deeper and broader understanding of the unique social sphere, the ‘qiao sphere’, would help to analyse not only the functioning of each individual qiaoxiang society but also the ways in which China as a whole conducts itself internationally.

Chau, Adam Yuet
overseas Chinese, North China, Qiaoxiang society, Qiaowu
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge