Session 6: Diaspora and Migration


Friday, April 26, 10:40 a.m — 12:10 p.m.

Co-Sovereignty, Diaspora Policy and Anti-Communist Cooperation: Free Villages in Saigon, 1954-61

Adrian Kwong

PhD Candidate, Department of History, University of Oxford, England

This chapter examines using Taiwanese archival sources the Free Villages in Saigon both as an exceptional case of the ROC exercising co-sovereignty and not just influence over diasporic individuals, and an illustration of broader features of Taipei’s diaspora policy in the 1950s-early 1960s. The Free Villages of Saigon were settlements built for Chinese transplants from northern Vietnam after the 1954 Geneva Accords, jointly administered between Taiwanese and South Vietnamese bodies. The Free Villages were exceptional in the sense that, with initial South Vietnamese consent, ROC officials briefly exercised state authority over co-ethnics resident abroad through a quasi-official arm, the Free China Relief Association (FCRA). Furthermore, ROC policy towards these villages elucidates broader features of Taipei diaspora policy. The Free Villages provided a symbol of the ROC’s ties with South Vietnam, as well as the US and Asian anti-Communist states; Foreign Ministry and diaspora affairs bureaucrats sought to embed ROC diaspora policy within Cold War Asian diplomacy. ROC policies concerning the Free Villages also often valued actual governance of the inhabitants less than presenting the villages and their inhabitants as a demonstration of diasporic loyalty to the ROC and the vitality of its diplomatic alliances.

This Chapter is part of my DPhil thesis, ‘From Asian Nationalist to Cold Warrior: ROC Diaspora Policy in Malaya and Vietnam, c. 1945-1963’

In 1945-9, ROC elites prioritised protection of the Chinese diaspora in Malaya and Vietnam, and conceptualised it as an agent of Chinese influence in the postwar Asian order. After the retreat to Taiwan, the Chinese diaspora took on greater discursive importance for ROC elites who presented them as a symbol of legitimacy. However, the same state elites made concessions in diaspora policy to their Southeast Asian allies and situated their diaspora policy within international anti-Communist diplomacy.

This argument reveals the concessions ROC state elites made over diaspora issues to win the support of their allies. These developments were comparable to the PRC’s diplomacy in the same period and were a different focus of diaspora policy than simply seeing the diaspora as a means of maintaining political legitimacy. Secondly, it demonstrates that ROC diaspora policy was part of the framework of Cold War anti-Communist cooperation. Two key considerations that influenced ROC diaspora policy were efforts to resolve perceived problems of ambiguous nationality and loyalty to improve relations with allies; and utilising ROC influence over the Chinese diaspora to reinforce Taiwan’s place in the US-led anti-Communist security network in Asia. Third, despite the changes in the ideational aims of foreign policy, considerations of political security remained central even in the peripheral area of diaspora affairs.


Taiwan in Muslim worlds: Arabia-Asia connections, geopolitics, and precarious migrations

Yannis-Adam Allouache

PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Taiwan’s relationships with Islam, Arabia and Southeast Asia have played a crucial role at critical junctures in its modern political history. While the presence of Muslims in Taiwan dates back to the 17th century (Gladney, 1996), it was over three centuries later that the KMT established the Chinese Muslim Association (CMA) to mobilise Chinese Muslims in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Soon after the Chinese Nationalists fled to Taiwan, the CMA was relocated to Taipei. By the 1970s, the KMT’s outreach efforts to Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nation-states were informed by Hajj diplomacy, anti-communism, and energy dependence on imported oil (Yamada, 2015). Since the late 1980s, most Muslims have been contract-based, low- wage Indonesian migrant workers with precarious working experiences across Taiwan’s urban peripheries, industrial landscapes, and port spaces. In recent years, Taiwan has positioned itself as a Muslim-friendly society by leveraging its Islamic past for tourism and trade and promoting religious freedom against the oppressive treatment of Muslims in China (Hammond, 2021).

Yet, state-led migration categories influence who migrates, how, where they live, and with what rights (Raghuram, 2020). This paper approaches the contemporary experiences of Muslim migrants in urban, geopolitical and historical contexts. It, therefore, asks what focusing on everyday Muslim migrant spaces and encounters implies for Taiwan’s efforts to build connections with Muslims from around Asia and the world. Mobilising critical geography and the developing field of Critical Muslim studies (Sayyid, 2022; Sidaway, 2023 Allouache, 2023), I thereby aim to contribute a way of seeing Taiwan (including Taiwan studies) from Muslim migrant positionalities and sites. A multi-scalar and historically informed view from below can enrich our understanding of the treatment of Islam and Muslims in light of Taiwan’s promise of a more democratic and progressive Taiwanese Muslim future.


A Resurrecting Taiwan’s Contributions to the IndoChinese Refugee Crisis

Alvin Bui

PhD Candidate, Department of History, University of Washington, Seattle, USA

This paper resurrects Taiwan’s contributions to the IndoChinese refugee crisis. As a non-UN member state by the peak of the crisis in the late 1970s, Taiwan’s contributions to the IndoChinese refugee crisis are not recorded in UNHCR statistics, which detail the global nature of resettlement (across the “Global North”). By using Taiwanese and U.S. archival documents and reports from the semi-official Free China Relief Association (中國大陸災胞救濟總會; now the Chinese Association for Relief and Ensuing Services or CARES), I reconstruct statistics and stories behind the over 15,000 IndoChinese asylum seekers repatriated, integrated or resettled to third countries by the Republic of China/Taiwan. I use “IndoChinese” with a capital C to highlight the significant number of ethnic Chinese among those departing. I then juxtapose this archival investigation with an analysis of the 2023 Taiwanese public television documentary A Camp Unknown (彼岸他方). My analysis of texts and interviews in three languages focuses on the asylum seekers’ race/ethnicity, time (year) of departure, and terminology to transpacificize Critical Refugee, South/East Asian, Asian American/diasporic, and Cold War studies.