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New Research on Tan Kah Kee (关于陈嘉庚的新研究)

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The Departure of 1950, and the “Return” of 1955 (1950 年返回中国与 1955 年“逃离”中国的历史事件)

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This article uses heretofore unavailable or unexamined archival documents to offer new insights into and analysis of two specific historical questions concerning Tan Kah Kee. The first question has to do with the precise circumstances and motivations that underpinned Tan’s departure from Singapore in 1950, which turned out to be a permanent return to China. The second question has to do with a more recent revisionist argument that suggests that Tan tried — and failed — to escape from China in 1954 and 1957. Both questions have a certain historical significance in that they are closely connected to how Tan has been, and is, remembered in the modern histories of Singapore, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the Chinese overseas.The prevailing historiographical view on Tan’s permanent return to China in 1950 is that it was essentially the product of both “push and pull” factors; that is, that Tan was both pushed out of Singapore by the increasingly hostile political situation after the British pressure that was placed on him as a result of the Malayan Emergency, and attracted back to China by the “pull” that the establishment of New China (in 1949) exerted on his patriotic sentiments. Based on a close reading of archival evidence, this article demonstrates that Tan was not pushed out of Singapore. He left on his own terms, and because he wanted to play a part in New China.The New Biography of Tan Kah Kee suggests that Tan attempted to escape to Singapore in 1954 and 1957, because he had become disillusioned with the radicalizing political situation in China, and thus decided to leave Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party behind. In this narrative, Tan’s escape ultimately fails because, in 1954, Zhou Enlai uses political blackmail to force Tan to stay and, in 1957, the British authorities in Singapore ban him from returning. This article demonstrates that this narrative is unsupported by archival evidence. Tan only made one attempt to travel to Singapore in 1955, and it was neither an escape attempt nor was it blocked by the Chinese Communists or the British. Rather than fleeing the PRC, Tan was likely trying to travel to Singapore on behalf of the PRC.本文利用不可多得或迄今为止未经细查的档案文献, 为关于陈嘉庚的两个具体的历史问题提供了新的见解和分析。第一个问题围绕陈嘉庚在新加坡的种种境遇和其1950年离开新加坡并永远留在中国的动机。第二个问题有关于一个近代修正主义争论, 它指出: 陈嘉庚曾试图在 1954 年和 1957 年逃离中国, 但都以失败告终。这两个问题对陈嘉庚如何在新加坡现代史, 中华人民共和国史以及华侨华人史中被记录有着密不可分的联系, 因此具有特殊历史重要性。对于陈嘉庚于 1950 年回归中国这历史事件, 主流观点认为这是 “推力与拉力” 两者共同作用的产物: 面对马来亚紧急状态, 英国对陈嘉庚施压, 从而加大陈嘉庚与当下政治局势日益敌视的关系, 最终迫使其被 “推” 出新加坡; 与此同时, 1949 年新中国的成立激发了他的爱国情感而将他 “拉” 回中国。基于对档案证据的仔细阅读, 本文论证了陈嘉庚并没有被 “推” 出新加坡——他的离开出于自愿, 因为他希望为新中国做出贡献。《陈嘉庚新传》一书中提到, 中国激进的政治局势使陈嘉庚感到理想破灭, 于是他决定离开毛泽东及中国共产党。之后他分别在1954和1957年试图逃返新加坡, 但都以失败告终: 在 1954 年, 周恩来利用政治因素威胁陈嘉庚留下; 而在1957年, 新加坡的英国当局禁止他返回。本文证实此书的叙述不能被档案证据所支持。事实上, 陈嘉庚仅在 1955 年试图前往新加坡; 作为仅有的一次“离开中国,” 它不具有逃跑的企图, 陈也未被中共和英国阻拦, 反倒更像是代表中国出访新加坡。This article is in English.

Affiliations: 1: Department of International History, London School of Economics & Political Science (伦敦政治经济学院, 国际历史系)


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1. mfa "“Zhou Enlai’s Conversations with the Ambassadors of India, Indonesia, and Burma”" 1954 07 10 Accessed 28 July 2015 ()
2. mfa "“Minutes of Conversation between Zhou Enlai and Burmese Prime Minister U Nu”" 1954 06 28 Accessed 28 July 2015 ()
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