Chen Jiqing discusses his family’s return to China from Indonesia fleeing persecution in the 1960s, and shares his views on the Cultural Revolution in China
Born to a Meizhou native father and an Indonesia-born mother, Chen Jiqing shares how his parents met when his father found work in Indonesia, fixing tires in a Dutch factory. They later married and went to Jakarta to work in the luggage industry. Chen explains that Chinese exclusion in Indonesia started in the countryside from 1960, while big cities were less affected. Hostile Indonesians would engage third parties to attack and loot Chinese businesses and homes. His mother originally did not want to return to China, but she eventually gave in to her husband. On the dock to leave Indonesia, they witnessed the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party competing to entice overseas Chinese returnees to join them on their boats.
Upon returning to China, his father was assigned to a tire factory in Fuzhou because of the skills he had learned in Indonesia, while Chen and his brother continued their education. After graduating high school, he joined the Fuzhou Overseas Chinese Plastics Factory, amidst the Cultural Revolution. Notably, the factory continued production unlike others that halted operations under the Cultural Revolution. He feels that the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution in China led the government to deviate from its overseas Chinese policy, neglecting the larger Chinese diaspora, which disappointed many returnees. Yet, after the reforms, he felt that the Chinese government only focused on keeping in touch with overseas Chinese capitalists and overlooked the overseas Chinese from lower socioeconomic standings.
Interviewer: Chen Yishen
Interviewee: Chen Jiqing
What does Chen Jiqing’s reflections on the Chinese government’s policy towards overseas Chinese reveal about changing political imperatives in China during the Cold War, and how it affected the various socioeconomic classes of overseas Chinese across Asia?