NTU holds conference on Chinese diaspora

Prof Michael Szonyi (left) and Prof Jing Tsu (right) will deliver keynote addresses at the conference today in Mandarin and English respectively.

SINGAPORE - Some nine million Chinese nationals have left China for greener pastures, including Singapore, since China's opening up in the early 1980s. How these emigrants will affect the rest of the world is one question that will be addressed at a conference on the Chinese diaspora that started on Friday.

A total of 36 papers in English and Chinese, by scholars from 13 countries and regions, will be presented at the conference titled "New Horizons Of Diasporic Chinese Studies: Evolving Themes, Changing Frameworks, Future Directions" at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

In total, there are about 50 million Chinese overseas. This makes them a sizeable group for any academic study, especially when their number is still rising, said Professor Liu Hong, 51, chair of NTU's School of Humanities and Social Studies, which is organising the two-day event with NTU's Centre for Chinese Language and Culture.

"How they integrate with the societies of their host countries and the struggles they had with their political, cultural and social identities are interesting subjects for study," he added.

The event is held to mark the centre's 20th and the school's 10th anniversaries.

Prof Liu said the conference is timely as diasporic Chinese studies have gained global attention with the rise of China.

Another important topic, he pointed out, is the relationship between the Chinese overseas and China. Statistics, he said, show that up to 70 per cent of foreign direct investments in China today came from Chinese overseas.

Dr Neo Peng Fu, 51, director of the Confucius Institute at NTU, will present a paper. "I am looking at the history of Chinese schools in Malaysia and Singapore and how their growth and demise had to do with the political situations in China," he said.

Harvard's Chinese history professor Michael Szonyi, 46, will deliver the first of two keynote addresses today. His talk, in Mandarin, is about links between the military in Ming Dynasty China and Chinese merchants and settlers in South-east Asia who arrived since the 14th century or earlier.

The second, in English, is by Yale University's modern Chinese literature and culture professor Jing Tsu on the Chinese language system in literature.

wengkam@sph.com.sg


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