She is right about the importance of this. She includes more information than we did about Hong Sling and other local entrepreneurs, and uses the Chinese-American case to challenge the common idea that the Exposition represented solely a colonialist, Western viewpoint. Non-Western participants often had their own agendas, she says, including the Chinese.
Dr. Ngai and we may disagree on one point, however. She accepts an idea which we too used to hold, that the Chinese government refused to participate in the Exposition in protest against the Chinese Exclusion laws of 1882 and later years. We are starting to have doubts about this as a general proposition, finding it hard to believe that the Imperial government cared that much about the fate of working-class Chinese in other countries. Instead we suspect that the Emperor’s advisors were unhappy about U.S. immigration policies as applied specifically to Chinese of the official class like themselves. If imperial representatives could be insulted at dockside in San Francisco or Tacoma, it might have been decided, there would not be an official Chinese presence in Chicago.
We are happy that researchers at local universities are taking an interest in the subject. We hope that Dr. Ngai can be persuaded to contribute a short article to this website.
Ngai, Mae M. “Transnationalism and the Transformation of the “Other'” American Quarterly – Vol 57, No 1, Mar 2005, pp. 59-65