Drawing on archival sources in Britain, Singapore, Malaysia, and the United States, this article explores late-colonial anxieties about the influence of Chinese nationalism in Malaya (and especially among students in Chinese-medium schools) in the lead up to self-government in 1957. It demonstrates that the colonial fear of communism in Malaya was not always synonymous with the fear of cultural influence from “new China” and that the “rise of China” in the mid-1950s was viewed as a challenge to colonially sanctioned programs for “Malayanization.” More importantly, in exploring some of the ways in which the colonial state mobilized anti-communist cultural workers from Hong Kong to help counter the perceived threat from China, the article argues that more focus should be placed on the role of colonial agency in shaping “Sinophone” cultural expression in Southeast Asia during this period.

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