Taiwanese/American Migration and Cold War Politics

This book project will be the first monograph on the political lives of Taiwanese migrants who came to the United States as students during the late Cold War (1960s through 1980s). It fills a significant lacuna in Asian American historiography and offers an extensive social and political analysis of a group and set of experiences shaped by the global Cold War in ways that have often been erased, overlooked, or misunderstood.

Typically regarded as an apolitical model minority group, many Taiwanese of this generation were in fact overwhelmingly political – shaped by multiple imperial and colonial identities, and influenced by the global social movements of their times. Student migrants created pervasive social networks that served as a lasting infrastructure for transpacific activism. University campuses became key sites of political formation and struggle, as students both perpetrated and became victims of extralegal surveillance by the ROC government.

Although the conditions of their migration served U.S. interests and depended upon the United States’ entangled relationship with the Republic of China, these activists fought to make Taiwanese visible and legible as a people subject to injustice and deserving of self-determination. The involvement of foreign students and their allies – faculty, administrators, politicians, and human rights activists – in a Cold War transpacific drama that played out on university campuses received substantial media attention in those decades, but has been virtually forgotten now. While this project is a testament to the lives and activism of a generation of Taiwanese migrant activists, it also raises significant questions about historical legibility, the politics of scholarship, and the lingering epistemological effects of Cold War relations of power.

Related Content

Cheng, Wendy. “The Taiwan Revolutionary Party and Sinophone Political Praxis in New York.” 2019 (Fall). Amerasia Journal. Special issue on Asian American activism coedited by Diane Fujino and Robyn Rodriguez. DOI: 10.1080/00447471.2019.1665962

Cheng, Wendy. “‘This Contradictory but Fantastic Thing’: Student Networks and Political Activism in Cold War Taiwanese/America.” 2017. Journal of Asian American Studies 20:2, 161-191.

Cheng, Wendy. “The Bold and Unruly Legacy of Chen Wen-chen.” New Bloom Magazine (July 2, 2021). https://newbloommag.net/2021/07/02/chen-wen-chen-legacy/; reprinted in Pacific Times (太平洋時報) (July 6, 2021)

Cheng, Wendy. “Refuting the Silences of Taiwanese/American History: The Case of Chen Yu-hsi.” Forum essay. 2021. American Quarterly 73:2, 343-48.

Wendy Cheng and Chih-ming Wang. “Against Empire: Taiwan, American Studies, and the Archipelagic.” Introductory essay to coedited forum of same title. 2021. American Quarterly 73:2, 335-41.

Cheng, Wendy. “Transpacific Articulations: Student Migration and the Remaking of Asian America” (by Chih-ming Wang). Book review. 2014. Journal of Asian American Studies 17:3: 382-85.

Cheng, Wendy. “Taiwanese Americans.” Encyclopedia entry. 2014. Asian American Society: An Encyclopedia. SAGE Publications.