Overseas Chinese (Chinese: 海外華人; pinyin: Hǎiwài Huárén)
are people of Chinese birth or descent who live outside the People's
Republic of China
Republic of China (the Mainland, Hong Kong, Macau) and the Republic of
Overseas Chinese can be of the
Han Chinese ethnic
majority, or from any of the other ethnic groups in China. On a
per capita basis,
Singapore has the highest proportion of Overseas
Chinese outside Greater China, while
Australia has the highest
proportion outside Asia.
Qing Dynasty and Republic of China
2.2 Waves of immigration
Overseas Chinese experience
3.1 Commercial success
4 Relationship with China
4.1 Citizenship status
4.2 Returning and re-emigration
6 Country statistics
7 See also
8 Further reading
11 External links
Chinese language has various terms equivalent to the English
"Overseas Chinese" which refers to Chinese citizens residing in
countries other than China: Huáqiáo (Chinese: 華僑; pinyin:
Huáqiáo) or Hoan-kheh in Hokkien (Chinese: 番客). At the end of
the 19th century, the Chinese government realized that overseas
Chinese could be an asset, a source of foreign investment, and a
bridge to overseas knowledge; thus, it began to recognize the use of
the term Huaqiao (華僑). The modern term haigui (海歸) refers
to returned overseas Chinese and guīqiáo qiáojuàn (歸僑僑眷)
to their returning relatives.
Huáyì (Chinese: 華裔; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Hôa-è) refers to ethnic
Chinese residing outside China. Another often-used term is
海外華人 (Hǎiwài Huárén), a more literal translation of
overseas Chinese; it is often used by the PRC government to refer to
people of Chinese ethnicities who live outside the PRC, regardless of
Overseas Chinese who are ethnically Han Chinese, such as Cantonese,
Hoochew, Hokkien, or Hakka refer to overseas Chinese as
唐人 (Tángrén), pronounced tòhng yàn in
Cantonese, toung ning in Hoochew, Tn̂g-lâng in Hokkien, and tong
nyin in Hakka. Literally, it means Tang people, a reference to Tang
China when it was ruling
China proper. This term is commonly
used by the Cantonese, Hoochew, Hakka and Hokkien as a colloquial
reference to the Chinese people, and has little relevance to the
The term shǎoshù mínzú (少數民族) is added to the various
terms for overseas Chinese to indicate those in the diaspora who would
be considered ethnic minorities in China. The terms shǎoshù mínzú
huáqiáo huárén; shǎoshù mínzú huáqiáo huárén; and
shǎoshù mínzú hǎiwài qiáobāo (少數民族海外僑胞) are
all in usage. The
Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the PRC does not
distinguish between Han and ethnic minority populations for official
policy purposes. For example, members of the
Tibetan diaspora may
China on passes granted to certain overseas Chinese.
Various estimates of the overseas Chinese minority population include
3.1 million (1993), 3.4 million (2004), 5.7 million (2001,
2010), or approximately one tenth of all overseas Chinese
(2006, 2011). Cross-border ethnic groups (跨境民族,
kuàjìng mínzú) are not considered overseas Chinese minorities
unless they left
China after the establishment of an independent state
on China's border.
Some ethnic groups who have historic connections with China, like the
Hmong may not associate themselves as "overseas Chinese".
Main article: Chinese emigration
Chinese people have a long history of migrating overseas. One of
the migrations dates back to the
Ming dynasty when Zheng He
(1371–1435) became the envoy of Ming. He sent people – many
Cantonese and Hokkien – to explore and trade in the
South China Sea
South China Sea and in the Indian Ocean.
Qing Dynasty and Republic of China
1967 photo of Indonesian-Chinese family from
Hubei ancestry, the
second and third generations
China was under the imperial rule of the Qing Dynasty, subjects
who left the
Qing Empire without the Administrator's consent were
considered to be traitors and were executed. Their family members
faced consequences as well. However, the establishment of the Lanfang
Republic (Chinese: 蘭芳共和國; pinyin: Lánfāng Gònghéguó) in
West Kalimantan, Indonesia, as a tributary state of Qing China,
attests that it was possible to attain permission. The republic lasted
until 1884, when it fell under Dutch occupation as Qing influence
Under the administration of the
Republic of China
Republic of China from 1911 to 1949,
these rules were abolished and many migrated outside the Republic of
China, mostly through the coastal regions via the ports of Fujian,
Hainan and Shanghai. These migrations are considered to be
among the largest in China's history. Many nationals of the Republic
China fled and settled down in
South East Asia
South East Asia mainly between the
years 1911–1949, after the
Nationalist government led by Kuomintang
lost to the Communist Party of
China in the
Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War in 1949.
Most of the nationalist and neutral refugees fled
Mainland China to
Southeast Asia (Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia,
Philippines) as well as
Taiwan (Republic of China). Many nationalists
who stayed behind were persecuted or even executed.
Most of the Chinese who fled during 1911–1949 under the Republic of
China settled down in
Malaysia and automatically gained
citizenship in 1957 and 1963 as these countries gained
Kuomintang members who settled in
Singapore played a major role in the establishment of the Malaysian
Chinese Association and their meeting hall at Sun Yat Sen Villa. There
is some evidence that they intend to reclaim mainland
China from the
Communists by funding the
Kuomintang in China.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the ROC tended to seek the support of
overseas Chinese communities through branches of the
on Sun Yat-sen's use of expatriate Chinese communities to raise money
for his revolution. During this period, the People's Republic of China
tended to view overseas Chinese with suspicion as possible capitalist
infiltrators and tended to value relationships with Southeast Asian
nations as more important than gaining support of overseas Chinese,
and in the
Bandung declaration explicitly stated that overseas Chinese
owed primary loyalty to their home nation.
Waves of immigration
Different waves of immigration led to subgroups among overseas Chinese
such as the new and old immigrants in Southeast Asia, North America,
Oceania, the Caribbean, South America, South Africa, and Europe.
In the 19th century, the age of colonialism was at its height and the
Chinese diaspora began. Many colonies lacked a large pool of
laborers. Meanwhile, in the provinces of
China, there was a surge in emigration as a result of the poverty and
ruin caused by the Taiping rebellion. The
Qing Empire was forced
to allow its subjects to work overseas under colonial powers. Many
Hokkien chose to work in
Southeast Asia (where they had earlier links
starting from the Ming era), as did the Cantonese. The city of Taishan
Guangdong province was the source for many of the economic
migrants. For the countries in North America and Australasia, great
numbers of laborers were needed in the dangerous tasks of gold mining
and railway construction. Widespread famine in
Guangdong impelled many
Cantonese to work in these countries to improve the living conditions
of their relatives. Some overseas Chinese were sold[by whom?] to South
America during the
Punti-Hakka Clan Wars (1855–1867) in the Pearl
River Delta in Guangdong. After
World War II
World War II many people from the New
Hong Kong emigrated to the UK (mainly England) and to
Netherlands to earn a better living.
From the mid-19th century onward, emigration has been directed
primarily to Western countries such as the United States, Australia,
Canada, Brazil, The United Kingdom, New Zealand,
Argentina and the
nations of Western Europe; as well as to Peru, Panama, and to a lesser
extent to Mexico. Many of these emigrants who entered Western
countries were themselves overseas Chinese, particularly from the
1950s to the 1980s, a period during which the PRC placed severe
restrictions on the movement of its citizens. In 1984, Britain agreed
to transfer the sovereignty of
Hong Kong to the PRC; this triggered
another wave of migration to the
United Kingdom (mainly England),
Australia, Canada, US, South America,
Europe and other parts of the
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 further accelerated the
migration. The wave calmed after Hong Kong's transfer of sovereignty
in 1997. In addition, many citizens of
Hong Kong hold citizenships or
have current visas in other countries so if the need arises, they can
Hong Kong at short notice. In fact, after the Tiananmen Square
incident, the lines for immigration visas increased at every consulate
in Hong Kong.
In recent years, the
People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China has built increasingly
stronger ties with African nations. Author Howard French estimates
that over one million Chinese have moved in the past 20 years to
More recent Chinese presences have developed in Europe, where they
number nearly a million, and in Russia, they number over 200,000,
concentrated in the Russian Far East. Russia’s main Pacific port and
naval base of Vladivostok, once closed to foreigners and belonged to
China until the late 19th century, as of 2010[update] bristles with
Chinese markets, restaurants and trade houses. A growing Chinese
Germany consists of around 76,000 people as of
2010[update]. An estimated 15,000 to 30,000 Chinese live in
Overseas Chinese experience
Main article: Bamboo network
Overseas Chinese are estimated to control US$ 2 trillion in liquid
assets and have considerable amounts of wealth to stimulate economic
power in China. The overseas Chinese business community of
Southeast Asia, known as the bamboo network, has a prominent role in
the region's private sectors.
In North America, Europe, and Oceania, occupations are diverse and
impossible to generalize; ranging from catering to significant ranks
in medicine, the arts, and academia.
Overseas Chinese often send remittances back home to family members to
help better them financially and socioeconomically.
China ranks second
India of top remittance-receiving countries in 2010 with over
US$51 billion sent.
Hakka people in a wedding in East Timor, 2006
Overseas Chinese vary widely as to their degree of assimilation, their
interactions with the surrounding communities (see Chinatown), and
their relationship with China.
Thailand has the largest overseas Chinese community and is also the
most successful case of assimilation, with many claiming Thai
identity. For over 400 years, Thai-Chinese have largely intermarried
and/or assimilated with their compatriots. The present Thai monarch,
Chakri Dynasty, is founded by King Rama I who himself is partly
Chinese. His predecessor, King
Taksin of the Thonburi Kingdom, is the
son of a Chinese immigrant from
Guangdong Province and was born with a
Chinese name. His mother, Lady Nok-iang (Thai:
นกเอี้ยง), was Thai (and was later awarded the feudal
title of Somdet Krom Phra Phithak Thephamat).
In the Philippines, Chinese from
Guangdong were already migrating to
the islands from the 9th century, and have largely intermarried with
either indigenous Filipinos or Spanish colonisers. Their descendants
would eventually form the bulk of the elite and ruling classes in a
sovereign Philippines. Since the 1860s, most Chinese immigrants have
come from Fujian; unlike earlier migrants, Fujianese settlers rarely
intermarried, and thus form the bulk of the "unmixed" Chinese
Filipinos. Older generations have retained Chinese traditions and the
use of Minnan (Hokkien), while the majority of younger generations
largely communicate in English, Filipino, and other Philippine
languages, and have largely layered facets of both Western and
Filipino culture onto their Chinese cultural background.
In Myanmar, the Chinese rarely intermarry (even amongst different
Chinese linguistic groups), but have largely adopted the Burmese
culture whilst maintaining Chinese cultural affinities.
In Cambodia, between 1965 and 1993, people with Chinese names were
prevented from finding governmental employment, leading to a large
number of people changing their names to a local, Cambodian name.
Myanmar were among the countries that do not allow
birth names to be registered in foreign languages, including Chinese.
But since 2003, the Indonesian government has allowed overseas Chinese
to use their Chinese name or using their Chinese family name on their
In Vietnam, Chinese names are pronounced with Sino-Vietnamese
readings. For example, the name of the previous Chinese president,
胡錦濤 (pinyin: Hú Jǐntāo), would be transcribed as "Hồ Cẩm
Đào". In Western countries, the overseas Chinese generally use
romanised versions of their Chinese names, and the use of local first
names is also common. Vietnamese people have adopted some Chinese
traditions, ancient Chinese characters, philosophy such as
Taoism after centuries of the rule of China until
the establishment of
Ngo dynasty (Han-Nom: 吳朝); some Hoa people
adopt the Vietnamese culture due to their similarities, however many
Hoa still prefer maintaining Chinese cultural background (See Sinic
world or Adoption of Chinese literary culture). The official census
from 2009 accounted the Hoa population at some 823,000 individuals and
ranked 6th in terms of its population size. 70% of the Hoa live in
cities and towns, mostly in Ho Chi Minh city while the remainder live
in the countryside in the southern provinces.
On the other hand, in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, overseas
Chinese have maintained a distinct communal identity.
In East Timor, a large fraction of Chinese are of Hakka descent.
See also: Sinophobia
Overseas Chinese have often experienced hostility and discrimination.
In countries with small Chinese minorities, the economic disparity can
be remarkable. For example, in 1998, ethnic Chinese made up just 1% of
the population of the
Philippines and 4% of the population in
Indonesia, but have wide influence in
Philippines and Indonesian
private economy. The book World on Fire, describing the Chinese as
a "market-dominant minority", notes that "Chinese market dominance and
intense resentment amongst the indigenous majority is characteristic
of virtually every country in
Southeast Asia except
Singapore". Chinese market dominance is present in Thailand, which
is noted for its lack of resentment, while
Singapore is majority
This asymmetrical economic position has incited anti-Chinese sentiment
among the poorer majorities. Sometimes the anti-Chinese attitudes turn
violent, such as the
13 May Incident
13 May Incident in
Malaysia in 1969 and the
Jakarta riots of May 1998
Jakarta riots of May 1998 in Indonesia, in which more than 2,000
people died, mostly rioters burned to death in a shopping mall.
During the colonial era, some genocides killed tens of thousands of
During the Indonesian killings of 1965–66, in which more than
500,000 people died, ethnic Chinese were killed and their
properties looted and burned as a result of anti-Chinese racism on the
excuse that Dipa "Amat" Aidit had brought the PKI closer to
China. The anti-Chinese legislation was in the Indonesian
constitution until 1998.
It is commonly held that a major point of friction is the apparent
tendency of overseas Chinese to segregate themselves into a
subculture. For example, the anti-Chinese Kuala
Lumpur Racial Riots of 13 May 1969 and
Jakarta Riots of May 1998
Jakarta Riots of May 1998 were
believed to have been motivated by these racially biased
perceptions. This analysis has been questioned by some historians,
most notably Dr. Kua Kia Soong, the principal of New Era College, who
has put forward the controversial argument that the 13 May Incident
was a pre-meditated attempt by sections of the ruling Malay elite to
incite racial hostility in preparation for a coup. In 2006,
rioters damaged shops owned by Chinese-Tongans in Nukuʻalofa.
Chinese migrants were evacuated from the riot-torn Solomon
Ethnic politics can be found to motivate both sides of the debate. In
Malaysia, overseas Chinese tend to support equal and meritocratic
treatment on the expectation that they would not be discriminated
against in the resulting competition for government contracts,
university places, etc., whereas many "Bumiputra" ("native sons")
Malays oppose this on the grounds that their group needs such
protections in order to retain their patrimony. The question of to
what extent ethnic Malays, Chinese, or others are "native" to Malaysia
is a sensitive political one. It is currently a taboo for Chinese
politicians to raise the issue of
Bumiputra protections in parliament,
as this would be deemed ethnic incitement.
Many of the overseas Chinese who worked on railways in North America
in the 19th century suffered from racial discrimination in
the United States. Although discriminatory laws have been repealed or
are no longer enforced today, both countries had at one time
introduced statutes that barred Chinese from entering the country, for
Chinese Exclusion Act
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (repealed
1943) or the Canadian
Chinese Immigration Act, 1923 (repealed 1947).
In Australia, Chinese were targeted by a system of discriminatory laws
known as the 'White
Australia Policy' which was enshrined in the
Immigration Restriction Act of 1901. The policy was formally abolished
in 1973, and in recent years Australians of Chinese background have
publicly called for an apology from the Australian Federal
Government similar to that given to the 'stolen generations' of
indigenous people in 2007 by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Relationship with China
Overseas Chinese Museum, Xiamen, China
People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China and
Taiwan (officially known as
the Republic of China) maintain high level relationships with overseas
Chinese populations. Both maintain cabinet level ministries to deal
with overseas Chinese affairs, and many local governments within the
PRC have overseas Chinese bureaus.
The Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China, which does not
recognise dual citizenship, provides for automatic loss of PRC
citizenship when a former PRC citizen both settles in another country
and acquires foreign citizenship. For children born overseas of a PRC
citizen, whether the child receives PRC citizenship at birth depends
on whether the PRC parent has settled overseas: "Any person born
abroad whose parents are both Chinese nationals or one of whose
parents is a Chinese national shall have Chinese nationality. But a
person whose parents are both Chinese nationals and have both settled
abroad, or one of whose parents is a Chinese national and has settled
abroad, and who has acquired foreign nationality at birth shall not
have Chinese nationality" (Art 5).
By contrast, the Nationality Law of the Republic of China, which both
permits and recognises dual citizenship, considers such persons to be
citizens of the ROC (if their parents have household registration in
Returning and re-emigration
Main article: Haigui
With China's growing economic prospects, many overseas Chinese have
begun to migrate back to China, even as many mainland Chinese
millionaires are considering emigrating out of the nation for better
In the case of
Indonesia and Burma, political and ethnic strife has
cause a significant number of people of Chinese origins to re-emigrate
back to China. In other Southeast Asian countries with large Chinese
communities, such as Malaysia, the economic rise of People's Republic
China has made the PRC an attractive destination for many Malaysian
Chinese to re-emigrate. As the Chinese economy opens up, Malaysian
Chinese act as a bridge because many
Malaysian Chinese are educated in
United States or Britain but can also understand the Chinese
language and culture making it easier for potential entrepreneurial
and business to be done between the people among the two
Deng Xiaoping reforms, the attitude of the PRC toward
overseas Chinese changed dramatically. Rather than being seen with
suspicion, they were seen as people who could aid PRC development via
their skills and capital. During the 1980s, the PRC actively attempted
to court the support of overseas Chinese by among other things,
returning properties that had been confiscated after the 1949
revolution. More recently PRC policy has attempted to maintain the
support of recently emigrated Chinese, who consist largely of Chinese
students seeking undergraduate and graduate education in the West.
Many overseas Chinese are now investing in People's Republic of China
providing financial resources, social and cultural networks, contacts
The Chinese government estimates that of the 1.2 million Chinese
people who have gone overseas to study in the 30 years following
China's economic reforms beginning in 1978, three-fourths have not
returned to China.
Main article: Language and overseas Chinese communities
Typical grocery store on 8th Avenue in one of the Brooklyn Chinatowns
(布魯克林華埠) on Long Island, New York, US. Multiple Chinatowns
in Manhattan (紐約華埠), Queens (法拉盛華埠), and Brooklyn
are thriving as traditionally urban enclaves, as large-scale Chinese
immigration continues into New York, with the largest
metropolitan Chinese population outside Asia, including an
estimated 812,410 in 2015.
The usage of Chinese by overseas Chinese has been determined by a
large number of factors, including their ancestry, their migrant
ancestors' "regime of origin", assimilation through generational
changes, and official policies of their country of residence. The
general trend is that more established Chinese populations in the
Western world and in many regions of
Cantonese as either the
dominant variety or as a common community vernacular, while Mandarin
is much more prevalent among new arrivals, making it increasingly
common in many Chinatowns.
There are over 50 million overseas Chinese. Most overseas
Chinese are living in
Southeast Asia where they make up a majority of
the population of
Singapore (75%) and significant minority populations
Malaysia (23%), Indonesia,
Brunei (10%), the
Philippines, and Vietnam.
Overseas Chinese populations by country
Continent / country
Overseas Chinese population
Year of data
Chinese South Africans
Chinese people in Madagascar
Chinese people in Ethiopia
Chinese people in Angola
Chinese people in Algeria
Chinese people in Tanzania
Republic of Congo
Chinese people in the Republic of Congo
Chinese people in Nigeria
Chinese people in Ghana
Chinese people in Zambia
Ethnic Chinese in Mozambique
Chinese people in Zimbabwe
Chinese people in Egypt
Chinese people in the Sudan
Chinese people in Kenya
Chinese people in Uganda
Chinese people in Botswana
Chinese people in Lesotho
Democratic Republic of Congo
Chinese people in the DRC
Chinese people in Cameroon
Chinese people in Guinea
Chinese people in Benin
Chinese people in Namibia
Chinese people in Ivory Coast
Chinese people in Mali
Chinese people in Togo
Chinese people in Cape Verde
Chinese people in Malawi
Chinese people in Rwanda
Chinese people in Senegal
Chinese people in Morocco
Chinese people in Liberia
Chinese people in Burkina Faso
Chinese people in Libya
Thai Chinese, Peranakan
Malaysian Chinese, Peranakan
Burmese Chinese, Panthay
Chinese Filipino, Tornatras, Sangley
Chinese in South Korea
Chinese in Japan
Chinese in Kazakhstan
United Arab Emirates
Chinese people in the United Arab Emirates
Ethnic Chinese in Brunei
Chinese people in Israel
Chinese in North Korea
Chinese in India
Chinese people in Sri Lanka
Chinese people in Iran
Chinese people in Kyrgyzstan
Ethnic Chinese in Mongolia
Chinese people in Russia, Dungan people
Chinese diaspora in France, Chinois (Réunion)
Chinese people in Italy
Chinese people in Germany
Chinese people in Spain
Chinese people in the Netherlands
Chinese people in Turkey, Uyghurs
Chinese people in Sweden
Chinese people in Denmark
Chinese people in Bulgaria
Chinese people in Portugal
Chinese people in the Czech Republic
Chinese of Romania
Chinese people in Serbia
Chinese American, American-born Chinese
Chinese Canadian, Canadian-born Chinese
up to 900,000
up to 3%
Chinese people in Colombia
Ethnic Chinese in the Dominican Republic
Chinese people in Chile
Trinidad & Tobago
Chinese Trinidadian and Tobagonian
Ethnic Chinese in Belize
Chinese people in Uruguay
Chinese New Zealander
Chinese in Fiji
Chinese in Samoa
Papua New Guinea
Chinese people in Papua New Guinea
Chinese in Tonga
Chinese in Palau
Anti-Chinese legislation in Indonesia
Chinatown, the article, and Category:Chinatowns the international
Chinese Clan Association
Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association
List of overseas Chinese
Overseas Chinese banks
Overseas Chinese Affairs Office
Third culture kid
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chinese diaspora.
Andrewkidz Collections Library – The Overseas Chinese
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Republic of China (in Chinese)
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1 An overseas department of
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