The Communist takeover of the Chinese mainland in 1949 marked a watershed in the development of liberalism in modern China. From the early 1950s on, Marxism became the dominant political doctrine on the Chinese mainland, and there was little scope for adherents of other schools to express their ideas publicly there. A number of intellectuals, however, fled to Taiwan, Hong Kong and various overseas Chinese communities before the Communist takeover and enjoyed varying degrees of freedom of expression in their new homes. As émigrés, they continued their advocacy of democracy and freedom.
Through a study of the activities and writings of Yin Haiguang, Zhang Junmai and Xu Fuguan, this dissertation examines Chinese liberal thought as it survived abroad during the Cold War era. These émigré intellectuals were committed to a quest to rescue the Chinese nation from totalitarianism. They engaged in this commitment in various ways and with different strategic priorities. They had inherited from their Republican-era predecessors a multifaceted liberal tradition that, as Edmund Fung has argued, consisted of three ideological strands: liberalism, moderate socialism and cultural conservatism. Through a comparative study of the three men's political and cultural thought, the dissertation reveals how the diversity and “interactive” quality of this broad-sense liberal tradition was largely maintained in the Cold War era. Although the Chinese liberal tradition was not immune to Cold War currents from the West, the influence of these currents was quite limited.