“In the Traditions of China and in the Freedom of America”

Chiou-Ling Yeh

in Making an American Festival

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780520253506
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942431 | DOI:
“In the Traditions of China and in the Freedom of America”

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On the evening of February 15, 1953, the Chinese New Year parade's Grand Marshal, Corporal Joe Wong, a veteran who had been blinded in Korea, and two enlisted female Air Force officers, Jessie Lee and Anna Tome, led the first modern Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco's Chinatown. This chapter recounts how ethnic leaders exoticized the Chinese New Year Festival to generate political and economic resources for their own profit. Rooted in Cold War rhetoric, the modern celebration strove to be compatible with American containment policy, manifesting ethnic cultural expression and anti-communist convictions. Accordingly, festival organizers showcased war veterans and a beauty queen alongside the ethnic culture's exotic elements on the parade route. Such a strategy was intended to demonstrate Chinese American patriotism and to lure tourists into Chinatown. However, an emphasis on the exotic elements of the festival reinforced the notion that Chinese Americans were ethnic others. A 1956 grand jury subpoena that accused many Chinese Americans of illegal immigration compelled the ethnic community to adopt a model minority image.

Keywords: Chinese New Year; San Francisco; Chinatown; Cold War; war veterans; beauty queen; patriotism; Chinese Americans; illegal immigration; festival

Chapter.  10154 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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