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Waseda Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies Seminar Series ​ “China as an Authoritarian Diaspora State: Controlling Transnational Space”

Date and venue: 17th December, 2020 (Thursday) at 17:00-18:30 (JST) / Online (Zoom) ​ Speaker: ​ Mette Thunø is associate professor and former dean at Aarhus University, China Studies, Department of Global Studies. She has published extensively on Chinese migration to Europe and on China’s diaspora governance in journals such as International Migration Review and The China Quarterly. She recently co-edited a special issue on “New Dynamics of Chinese Migration to Europe” (2020) in International Migration. She was the co-author of Pieke et al., Transnational Chinese: Fujianese Migrants in Europe (Stanford University Press, 2004) and edited Beyond Chinatown: New Chinese Migration and the Global Expansion of China (NIAS, 2007) ​


It is the aim of this talk to discuss the most recent developments in China’s authoritarian diaspora governance and the ensuing reterritorialization and production of transnational space. The Chinese Party-state is increasingly re-affirming itself as transnational by expanding its control beyond its sovereign territory. This re-territorialisation of diasporic space is of course nothing new for a major, long-time emigration state as China, however, Beijing’s recent economic and political undertakings on the global scene imply raising economic and political interdependence and following this development the geopolitics of transnational space has become even more pertinent for the Chinese Party-state.

These recent changes in China’s diaspora strategies and governance call for analytical attention. By looking beyond the state in a Weberian sense as a territorially bounded unit of analysis and instead conceiving it as spatial, I seek to unpack China’s most recent extraterritorial narratives, strategies and initiatives underpinning economic, political and social life that build and shape new configurations of transnational spaces. I will show how an instrumental approach of ‘wooing and tapping’ the Chinese overseas populations will not capture and sufficiently explain governance, practices and mechanisms of transnational space making. Instead, I will draw inspiration from Collyer and King’s (2015) approach to the production of transnational Chinese space making through direct control with physical space, symbolic control of transnational space and discursive control of imaginative space in the perspective of the authoritarian Chinese state’s quest for simultaneous domestic stability by imposing repression, legitimation and cooptation strategies.

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