China’s outreach to the tens of millions of ethnic Chinese living abroad—the world’s largest diaspora—is an often overlooked part of the country’s soft-power strategy, but it is as careful and well organized as the other parts. To’s exhaustively researched book shows how the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office cultivates support in diaspora communities through language programs, cultural events, specialized media, summer camps, “roots-seeking” tours, long-term residence permits, and special business opportunities—an outreach effort known in Chinese as qiaowu. A policy adopted in the 1950s to limit consular protection to Chinese nationals abroad has quietly changed, with China increasingly helping co-ethnics who are not Chinese citizens. As To points out, the success of such efforts can be measured by the way sentiment toward China among overseas Chinese swung from revulsion during the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown to fervent pride during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Of course, China takes a much different approach to elements of the diaspora that oppose the regime, including political dissidents, Tibetan and Uighur activists, and Falun Gong practitioners: rather than seeking to protect and aid such groups, Chinese operatives surveil, threaten, and, on rare occasions, kidnap them.
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