Writing Communist China and the Politics of Diasporic Identity: Ha Jin, Anchee Min, Lien Chao, and Lisa See

  • Walter S. H. Lim


1989: The year of the publication of Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club and Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine was also the year when the Tiananmen Square Massacre took place. Witnessing the government crackdown of prodemocracy demonstrators while he was in the United States, Chinese author Ha Jin became convinced that China was no longer a country to which he could return and embraced the condition of self-imposed exile. Jin was not alone in discovering that he had to live outside the country of his birth. The dissident journalist Liu Binyan, who was also in the United States, suddenly found himself barred from returning to China after Tiananmen, forced into the condition of state-imposed exile. Whether exile is voluntary or involuntary, it leaves a critic of the state speaking in opposition to power outside of the social and political space where it most matters— the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Criticizing the government when in China can mean imprisonment. Criticizing the government when outside of China can mean that what one says remains unheard in China and is therefore inconsequential.


Chinese Communist Party Literary Work Cultural Revolution Great Leap Chinese Author 
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    Lisa See, Dreams of Joy (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 353.Google Scholar
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    Ha Jin, Nanjing Requiem (New York: Pantheon, 2011), 301.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., 215–16. See also Peh Shing Huei, “Cultural Revolution memories under threat,” in Straits Times (December 12 2011), A12. On the subject of the Cultural Revolution, Peh Shing Huei draws our attention to Mount Ta in the Teochew port city of Shantou (Guangdong) on which is located China’s only Cultural Revolution museum. Supported mainly by private donations (including the contribution of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing), this museum is apparently struggling to survive in a desperate bid to preserve memories of the atrocities that took place during the Cultural Revolution. Wanting knowledge of the Cultural Revolution to disappear with time, the Chinese government has strategically chosen to ignore the museum, deciding “to ‘cold storage’ the topic because if people keep talking about how bad it was, it will affect how they view Mao and the party.”Google Scholar
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© Walter S. H. Lim 2013

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  • Walter S. H. Lim

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