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Performing “Bifurcated Homelands”: Touring the Chinese Diasporas in Bangkok and Singapore, 1945-1960s

Beiyu Zhang
p. 61-72


From the end of the Second World War to the Cold War era, Chinese theatre troupes and performers endorsed by “bifurcated homelands” – the Republic of China (ROC) in Taipei and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing – travelled to Southeast Asia to battle for the hearts and minds of the Chinese diaspora through one potent means: dance, which has so far not garnered the attention it deserves. This article locates the performative linkages in two scenarios: (1) the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated theatre troupe Zhong Yi and its diasporic tours in Singapore and Bangkok in the immediate postwar era; (2) the experiences of the Taiwanese folk dancer Lee Shu Fen and her dancing legacy in Southeast Asia during the Cold War era. Situated in the burgeoning field of the “Chinese cultural Cold War,” this article argues for a “performative” angle that examines both the tours and the performing arts in the context of the shifting power realignment as a manifestation of Cold War geopolitics in Asia. While stressing the competing nature of the idea of “bifurcation,” this article goes further to prove the mutual influences and mirroring effects in the imaginings of Chineseness by both the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

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Editor’s notes

Manuscript received on 15 June 2021. Accepted on 21 April 2022.


Full text document will be published online on March 2024.


Zhong Yi’s reaching out for the Chinese in Southeast Asia, 1946-1949
Performing the CCP’s wartime socialist culture
Dancing KMT’s Cold War cultural diplomacy
Finding a new home in multicultural Singapore

First lines


In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia was engaged in hot debate in the context of decolonisation, anticommunism, and local ethnonationalism. The central focus of these debates revolved around the meanings and position of “Chineseness” in Southeast Asia. Scholars working in Sinophone studies tend to reject the notion of Chineseness, which they believe imposes a Sinocentric view upon hybridised/localised overseas communities (Chow 1998; Ang 2001; Shih 2010). However, as Shelly Chan (2015: 121) acutely points out, the more serious problem is that as scholars “attack the diasporas for essentializing the Chinese elsewhere, they essentialize China instead, ignoring how issues of identity and culture at the centre are far from case closed, but subject to constant reworking.” Echoing Chan, this article aims to unpack the complex ways of constructing and contesting Chineseness in the “bifurcated homelands” represented by the nationalist ...

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Bibliographical reference

Beiyu Zhang, “Performing “Bifurcated Homelands”: Touring the Chinese Diasporas in Bangkok and Singapore, 1945-1960s”China Perspectives, 132 | 2023, 61-72.

Electronic reference

Beiyu Zhang, “Performing “Bifurcated Homelands”: Touring the Chinese Diasporas in Bangkok and Singapore, 1945-1960s”China Perspectives [Online], 132 | 2023, Online since 01 March 2024, connection on 10 June 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Beiyu Zhang

Beiyu Zhang is Associate Professor at the School of International Studies/Academy of Overseas Chinese Studies at Jinan University, Guangzhou. 601 Huangpu Avenue West, Tianhe District, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China, 510632 (

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