Tan Kah Kee and overseas Chinese investment

In my post for Asian-Nation about Mainland and Taiwan influence in overseas Chinese schools, I wrote about a passage from my Chinese school days that was clearly Nationalist propaganda. Recently, I’ve found a passage from a Mainland textbook that is propaganda from the other side.

This quotation is from book 11 of 12 of the Zhongwen (中文) series, published by Jinan University and commissioned by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council (國務院僑務辦公室). The series is aimed specifically at Overseas Chinese in extracurricular language programs.

The chapter is about overseas Chinese business person Tan Kah Kee (陳嘉庚). Tan was born in Qing-era Fujian province and became rich in colonial Singapore. He returned to the People’s Republic of China to use his riches in the service of the homeland.

1949年10月1日,陈嘉庚应邀登上了天安门城楼,参加开国大典,亲眼看到了五星红旗在雄壮的国歌声中庄严升起,深深感到作为一个中国人十分自豪,同时也感到责任重大。中华人民共和国成立以后,他先后担任中央人民政府委员、华侨事务委员会委员、全国侨联主席、全国政协副主席,以极大的热情投身于新中国的建设事业。(p. 32)

On October 1, 1949, Tan Kah Kee was invited up to the Tiananmen tower for the ceremony marking the foundation of the People’s Republic of China. With his own eyes, he saw the five-starred red flag rise solemnly as the majestic national anthem played. He felt deeply the pride of being a Chinese person; at the same time, he felt a great sense of duty. After the PRC was founded, he held one office after another: member of the Central People’s Government, Chairman of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, Chairman of the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, and Vice-Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. He threw himself fervently into the project of creating a new China.

The unmistakable message here is that overseas Chinese students should return to and invest in the homeland, as Tan had done.

To underscore this point, they include a quote from Tan:

他说: “人生在世,不要只为个人的生活打算,而要为国家民族奋斗!”

He says, “When you are alive, you should not only live for yourself. You must also struggle for your country and your people!”

The school that uses this book goes through one book of the series per year, so this is approximately 11th grade-level material. Drop out rates from Chinese school are very high, and most students do not make it through middle school. Thus, this particular text is very rarely taught.

After flipping through the entire series, I get the sense that most of the material is relatively innocuous children’s texts, though the readings get more and more political as students progress. Also in book 11 are a chapter about Tiananmen Square (with no mention of the massacre of June 4, 1989) and another about the pre-PRC history of Potala Palace in “Tibet, China” (中国西藏).

Zhongguo Jinan Daxue Huawen Xueyuan, ed. 2007. Zhongwen (xiuding ban), di shiyi ce. Guangzhou: Jinan Daxue Chubanshe.