Advisor: Charles Armstrong
Born in Singapore, Chien-Wen graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College, where he majored in History and English. Before starting his Ph.D. at Columbia in 2011, he worked as a policy officer in the Singapore Ministry of Defence and taught A-Level Southeast Asian history at his high school alma mater. His research interests include overseas Chinese history and Chinese migration; modern Asian transnationalism and regionalism; and social and cultural histories of Cold War Asia.
His dissertation examines how Chinese in the Philippines came to terms with the nation-state order in "postcolonial" East Asia by forging anticommunist relations with the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan while maintaining illicit ties with mainland China during and after the Chinese Civil War. Two distinct relationships, spanning the years 1945 to 1975, anchor the project. The first, between the Philippine Chinese and Taiwan, sheds light on how the ROC became an external guarantor of ideological orthodoxy and source of "Chinese" cultural authenticity to Philippine-Chinese elites during a period when Filipino fears of "Chinese Reds" ran high and anti-Chinese policies proliferated. For Taiwan, subimperialist legal and cultural claims upon the Philippine and other Chinese communities abroad helped it fashion itself to the world as a political entity imbued with the qualities of "nation-state-ness." The second relationship, between the Philippine Chinese and mainland China, reframes the Chinese Civil War as an overseas Chinese conflict and shows how flows of remittances, people, and contraband between south China and the Philippines facilitated Philippine-Chinese accommodation to the nation-state through the reconfiguration of older transnational networks.
Chien-Wen's research in the Philippines, Taiwan, China, and the United States has been (or will be) funded by the Tokyo Foundation, the Association for Asian Studies, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, and Columbia University.