Grace AI-Ling Chou. Confucianism, Colonialism, and the Cold War: Chinese Cultural Education at Hong Kong's New Asia College, 1949-1963

By Luk, Bernard H. K. | China Review International, December 20, 2011 | Go to article overview

Grace AI-Ling Chou. Confucianism, Colonialism, and the Cold War: Chinese Cultural Education at Hong Kong's New Asia College, 1949-1963


Luk, Bernard H. K., China Review International


Grace Ai-ling Chou. Confucianism, Colonialism, and the Cold War: Chinese Cultural Education at Hong Kong's New Asia College, 1949-1963. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2012. X, 253 pp. Hardcover ,144.00, ISBN 978-90-04-18247-9.

This is a significant and readable book. The author is to be congratulated for choosing an important and hitherto unexplored topic, for her impressive multi-archival research, and for making a signal contribution to the various fields of study indicated in the title of this valuable monograph.

The main theme of the book is the early history of Hong Kong's New Asia College, from its founding by self-exiled Confucian scholars from mainland China in 1949 as a private college to 1963, when it became one of the foundation colleges of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, a state school of the colonial government. The author skillfully narrates and reveals the interplay of the motives, strategies, values, interests, and practices of the main actors in this drama: the founders of the New Asia College, the representatives of American philanthropy (the Yale-China Association, the Harvard-Yenching Institute, the Asia Foundation, and the Ford Foundation) that supported the fledgling institution, and the British colonial administrators who tried to make the best of the situation in which they found themselves. What the three parties had in common was what the author calls "anti-Communism": each saw the Confucianism embodied by the New Asia College as a significant factor in the anti-Communist struggle of the Cold War; they all had different reasons for objecting to Mao Zedong, and each held different expectations for the role that a Chinese institution of higher education in Hong Kong should play in that struggle. (1) As these expectations sometimes coincided but more often clashed, the institution evolved into an integral part of the local education system and gradually moved away from its founders' original vision. The author successfully demonstrates with her wealth of archival materials how that process took place. With her invaluable spadework, she has earned a notable place for her book in the history of 1950s Hong Kong, of the Cold War in East Asia, and of a Confucian institution in the post-World War II era.

On the other hand, the author has not turned every worthwhile stone for the expectant reader. The broader context of the New Asia College story should have been outlined explicitly, even if only in broad strokes, instead of being left as an implied backdrop, For example, two hot wars that were very much part of the international tensions in eastern Asia, the Korean War (1950-1953) and the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), could not but have been on the minds of all three sets of actors who tried to shape the development of the New Asia College. The war in Korea was a major background preoccupation of the U.S.-based foundations that went looking in 1953 for Chinese partners in East Asia to form an anti-Communist united front, even if Korea might not have been named specifically in their correspondence about the New Asia College. The Malayan conflict was a similar preoccupation for colonial officials of the British Far East, not least because it was a war between Malayan Chinese Communist guerillas and British Commonwealth forces. And there was a perceived Hong Kong connection, too, embodied as the Tat Tak College in Hong Kong, a Chinese Communist postsecondary institution that recruited students from South China as well as Southeast Asia in the aftermath of the World War, until it was closed down by the British authorities of Hong Kong in 1948. (When Nanyang University was founded in Singapore in 1956, there were also concerns about a possible Communist "infiltration" [cf. p. l08].) In this book, the Korean War is mentioned in a footnote (p. 70 n. 58) and the Malayan Emergency is not mentioned at all, nor is the Republic of China (ROC)-United States Mutual Defense Treaty (1954), an outcome of the Korean War and a major milestone in Sino-American relations and in the Cold War. …

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