Centre for Research in Communication and Culture


22 February 2017

'Films, songs or fountain pens': Colonial responses to mainland Chinese media in Britain's East Asian empire

Presented By Jeremy E. Taylor (Nottingham)
  • 1-2 pm (part of the CRCC seminar series)
  • Brockington U1.22

About this event

In this paper, I will examine late colonial responses to mainland Chinese media in Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong in the 1950s. In doing so, I will be examining the very different approaches adopted by colonial administrations in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, and explore how these differences led to tensions between these two ends of the British colonial presence in East Asia, especially given the use by Mao's China of Hong Kong as the main distribution point for pro-communist Chinese language media throughout the British empire and beyond.

Central to my argument is the point that all colonial administrations found it difficult to categorise or even define Chinese 'propaganda', especially from 1954 onwards. While attempts were being made to foster a 'Malayan Chinese' identity both by the British and by local groups such as the Malayan Chinese Association, administrators bemoaned the fact that various groups in Malaya and Singapore continued to favour virtually anything that was 'made in China' -- be these 'films, songs or fountain pens' -- over that which was being produced for local consumption by ethnic Chinese writers, filmmakers and musicians in the same period. The paper thus aims to bring colonial Hong Kong (and by extension the PRC) back into the story of decolonisation in 1950s Malaya and Singapore, but also to raise new questions about the notion of an organic and gradually evolving 'Malayan Chinese identity' in late colonial Southeast Asia.

The paper is based on work I am currently undertaking as part of a British Academy International Partnership and Mobility Project, and is based on archival material from the UK, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Jeremy E. Taylor is an associate professor in Modern Asian History at the University of Nottingham. 

This event is part of the CRCC Seminar Series.