China and Inner Asia
Columbia University, United States
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, while the Overseas Chinese Travel Service engaged in its primary business of organizing tours of the homeland for members of China’s diaspora, it also worked with local government agencies to organize domestic tours for the relatives they left behind. The goal of these tours was twofold, and followed closely that of tours organized for overseas Chinese themselves. By showing those with relatives abroad scenic sites and examples of socialist construction, officials of the Overseas Chinese Travel Service sought, on the one hand, to raise the prestige of socialist China overseas. On the other hand, tourism officials sought to motivate these tourists to encourage their relatives abroad to contribute financially to the continued success of the “New China.” Though the view of the nation that this gave overseas Chinese communities was an indirect one, relatives on the ground were perhaps the best agents for transmitting the narrative of progress and stability that officials in China’s overseas Chinese affairs departments wished to convey abroad. To address the perceived misunderstandings surrounding the New China among overseas Chinese communities, tour organizers first had to address the suspicions of the family members they left behind. To accomplish this goal, organizers used sightseeing tours to provide participants with a “visual education” of socialist construction. This paper analyzes the organization and goals of this unique tour program and its contribution to nation-building efforts in the early People’s Republic.