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Exhibition marks key role of Chinese paper in US

Updated: 2021-11-01 08:30 ( China Daily )
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Old copies of China Daily News are displayed in an ongoing exhibition at the Overseas Chinese History Museum of China in Beijing. [Photo by Wang Ru/China Daily]

The United States Mint announced it will issue up to five new coins each year from 2022-25, honoring the accomplishments and contributions of trailblazing American women, including a Chinese American Hollywood star.

The coins will be issued in the American Women Quarters Program. Among the first run is a coin commemorating Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American Hollywood star, whose "films and public image established her as a Chinese American citizen at a time when laws discriminated against Chinese immigration and citizenship", according to Shirley Jennifer Lim, a history professor at the State University of New York, in her book Anna May Wong: Performing the Modern.

Reports about Wong appeared in China Daily News, a Chinese-language newspaper published in the US from 1940-89, and her story is highlighted in an exhibition about the newspaper which kicked off at the Overseas Chinese History Museum of China in Beijing on Oct 21. It will run until the end of December.

According to Zang Jiebin, director of the museum, the China Daily News was "an important Chinese-language newspaper in various countries".

"The newspaper is now part of the history of the development of Chinese people in the US, and is evidence that they had a close relationship with China. It provides reference for research on Chinese people in the US and people-to-people communication between the two countries," says Zang.

A registration list at the exhibition shows Chinese people in the United States who bought shares to help raise money for the founding of the newspaper. [Photo by Wang Ru/China Daily]

In the 19th century, many Chinese people migrated to the US to pan for gold, or joined the construction of the Pacific Railroad. Then, due to the restrictions of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, few occupations were available to them. As a result, many of them had to work in laundries, enduring long working hours, heavy workloads, meager pay, and faced intense discrimination. To protect their civil rights, they founded the Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance.

In 1940, when the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) was at its height, a number of overseas Chinese-language newspapers, such as The Chinese Vanguard in the US and Au Secours de La Patrie in France, were suspended when staff members went back to China to join the fight.

"Since war cut their contact with relatives and friends in China, overseas Chinese people were eager to know about the situation in their homeland, and people's analysis of it," says Tang Wensheng, daughter of Tang Mingzhao, a founding member and editor-in-chief of the China Daily News.

Under the advice of the CHLA, a new newspaper was founded. "China Daily News was designed to be a progressive newspaper made by overseas Chinese people. Although some members of the Communist Party of China joined the preparation, it was not a paper of the CPC.But it was one that aimed to give a voice to overseas Chinese, especially the working class, and promote the relationship between China and the US," says Tang Wensheng.

Old copies of China Daily News are displayed in an ongoing exhibition at the Overseas Chinese History Museum of China in Beijing. [Photo by Wang Ru/China Daily]

The publication of a newspaper required money and equipment and the founding members launched a drive to get public donations and issue shares.

The exhibition highlights pictures of a prospectus and a list showing people who bought shares. "One share cost $10. Many overseas Chinese people could only afford to buy one or two shares each, since many of them were working as laundry workers and only earn about $5-6 a week. Finally, about 380 people bought the shares and they accumulated a capital of about $5,000," says a tour guide at the museum.

In terms of equipment, typefaces for printing were borrowed from The Chinese Vanguard, and the printing machine was transported from Au Secours de La Patrie.

Content, as the newspaper clippings in the exhibition show, included big events in China and elsewhere, and opinions on them, like overseas Chinese people's support for the war against Japanese aggression, the establishment of the New China and the issue of the UN Charter. It also reported on the relationship between China and the US, and Chinese people's lives in the US.

Tang Wensheng (second from right), daughter of Tang Mingzhao, a founding member and editor-in-chief of China Daily News, visits the exhibition with other guests. [Photo by Wang Ru/China Daily]

Another important exhibit is an inscription written by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping when he visited the US in 1979. Newspaper clippings show specific information about Deng's visit reported in China Daily News in that year, and Deng wrote an inscription to encourage the newspaper to make greater contributions to promoting the friendship between China and the US.

In 2000, on a visit to the US, Tang Wensheng, who worked as vice-president of the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, found out that bounded volumes of the newspaper were still kept by The China Press, another Chinese-language newspaper published in the US. The China Press promised to donate it back to China.

In 2006, the whole set of newspapers, which occupied more than 20 boxes, was sent back to China, becoming an important exhibit of the Overseas Chinese History Museum of China. All of it has since been digitalized, and visitors can read the digital version at the exhibition.

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