Overseas Chinese

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Overseas Chinese
Total population
c.50 million [1] [2] [3] [4]
(2018 estimate)
Chinese people around the world.svg
Regions with significant populations
Flag of Thailand.svg  Thailand 14,458,800 (includes ancestry) [5]
Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia 10,000,000 (includes ancestry) [6]
Flag of Indonesia.svg  Indonesia 9,500,000–12,670,000 (includes ancestry) [7]
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 5,143,982 [8]
Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore 4,071,000 (includes ancestry) [9]
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 1,869,195 [10]
Flag of Myanmar.svg  Myanmar 1,637,540 [11] [12]
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 1,213,903 [13]
Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea 1,070,566 [14]
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan 922,000 [15]
Flag of Vietnam.svg  Vietnam 749,466 [16]
Flag of France.svg  France 700,000 [17]
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 466,000 [18]
Flag of Venezuela.svg  Venezuela 420,000 [19]
Flag of Peru.svg  Peru 382,979 [20]
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 300,000–400,000 [21]
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 200,000–400,000 [22] [23]
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 320,794 [24]
Flag of Kazakhstan.svg  Kazakhstan 300,000
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 360,000
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 231,387 [25]
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 215,970 [26]
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 212,000
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 200,000 [24]
Flag of Laos.svg  Laos 190,000 [27]
Flag of India.svg  India 189,000 [28]
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates 180,000 [29]
Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 135,000 [30]
Flag of Namibia.svg  Namibia 130,000 [ citation needed ]
Flag of Madagascar.svg  Madagascar 70,000–100,000
Flag of Zambia.svg  Zambia 80,000 [31]
Chinese language and various languages of the countries they inhabit
Predominantly Buddhism, Taoism with Confucianism
Significant Christian, small Muslim, very small Hindu and Jewish with other religious minorities
Related ethnic groups
Chinese people

Overseas Chinese (traditional Chinese :海外華人/海外中國人; simplified Chinese :海外华人/海外中国人; pinyin :Hǎiwài Huárén/Hǎiwài Zhōngguórén) are people of ethnic Chinese birth who reside outside the territories of the People's Republic of China (PRC), its special administrative regions (SARs) of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as the Republic of China (ROC or Taiwan).



Huáqiáo (simplified Chinese :华侨; traditional Chinese :華僑) or Hoan-kheh in Hokkien, refers to people of Chinese birth[ clarification needed ] residing outside of either the PRC or Taiwan. At the end of the 19th century, the Qing government of China realized that the 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. [32]

Ching-Sue Kuik renders huáqiáo in English as "the Chinese sojourner" and writes that the term is "used to disseminate, reinforce, and perpetuate a monolithic and essentialist Chinese identity" by both the PRC and the ROC. [33]

The modern informal internet term haigui (simplified Chinese :海归; traditional Chinese :海歸) refers to returned overseas Chinese and guīqiáo qiáojuàn (simplified Chinese :归侨侨眷; traditional Chinese :歸僑僑眷) to their returning relatives. [34] [ clarification needed ]

Huáyì (simplified Chinese :华裔; traditional Chinese :華裔; Pe̍h-ōe-jī :Hôa-è) refers to people of Chinese origin residing outside of China, regardless of citizenship. [35] Another often-used term is 海外華人 (Hǎiwài Huárén). It is often used by the Government of the People's Republic of China to refer to people of Chinese ethnicities who live outside the PRC, regardless of citizenship (they can become citizens of the country outside China by naturalization).

Tang Ren Jie  (informally, Chinese St) is the name the Chinese emigrants used for Sacramento St in San Francisco Chinatown San Francisco China Town MC.jpg
唐人街 (informally, Chinese St) is the name the Chinese emigrants used for Sacramento St in San Francisco Chinatown

Overseas Chinese who are ethnically Han Chinese, such as Cantonese, Hoochew, Hokkien, Hakka or Teochew refer to themselves 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 dynasty 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 ancient dynasty. For example, in the early 1850s when Chinese shops opened on Sacramento St in San Francisco, the Chinese emigrants, mainly from the Pearl River Delta west of Canton, called it Tang People Street (Chinese :唐人街; pinyin :Tángrén Jiē) [36] [37] :13 and the settlement became known as Tang People Town (Chinese :唐人埠; pinyin :Tángrén Bù) or Chinatown, which in Cantonese is Tong Yun Fow. [37] :9–40

The term shǎoshù mínzú (simplified Chinese :少数民族; traditional Chinese :少數民族) is added to the various terms for the overseas Chinese to indicate those who would be considered ethnic minorities in China. The terms shǎoshù mínzú huáqiáo huárén and shǎoshù mínzú hǎiwài qiáobāo (simplified Chinese :少数民族海外侨胞; traditional Chinese :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. [34] For example, members of the Tibetan people may travel to China on passes granted to certain people of Chinese descent. [38] Various estimates of the Chinese emigrant minority population include 3.1 million (1993), [39] 3.4 million (2004), [40] 5.7 million (2001, 2010), [41] [42] or approximately one tenth of all Chinese emigrants (2006, 2011). [43] [44] Cross-border ethnic groups (跨境民族, kuàjìng mínzú) are not considered Chinese emigrant minorities unless they left China after the establishment of an independent state on China's border. [34]

Some ethnic groups who have historic connections with China, like the Hmong may not associate themselves as part of the Chinese diaspora. [45]


The 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 of them are Cantonese and Hokkien  – to explore and trade in the South China Sea and in the Indian Ocean.

Waves of emigration in late Qing Dynasty

Chinatown in Little Burke Street, Melbourne, Australia Chinatown Melbourne at night in September 2014.jpg
Chinatown in Little Burke Street, Melbourne, Australia
Map of Chinese migration from the 1800s to 1949. ChineseMigration003.jpg
Map of Chinese migration from the 1800s to 1949.

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 great Chinese diaspora began. Many colonies lacked a large pool of laborers. Meanwhile, in the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong in China, there was a surge in emigration as a result of the poverty and ruin caused by the Taiping rebellion. [46] 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 area of Taishan, in Guangdong province was the source for many of the economic migrants. [35] San Francisco and California was an early American destination in the mid 1800s because of the California Gold Rush. Many settled in San Francisco forming one of the earliest Chinatowns. For the countries in North America and Australasia, great numbers of laborers were also 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 many people from the New Territories in Hong Kong emigrated to the UK (mainly England) and to the Netherlands to earn a better living.

Chinese women and children in Brunei, c. 1945. Chinese women and children in Brunei.JPG
Chinese women and children in Brunei, c.1945.
Keningau Sabah ChoHuanLaiMemorial-03.jpg
Sandakan Sabah SandakanMassacreMemorial-05.jpg
Memorials dedicated to Overseas Chinese who perished in northern Borneo (present-day Sabah, Malaysia) during the World War II after being executed by the Japanese forces.

Interestingly, during the early and mid-19th century the anthropometric indicators, namely height of the overseas Chinese was close to the parameters of Southern Europeans. Moreover, the average height of Southern Chinese used to be relatively stable at around 161–164 cm for males. Another important fact is that the height of Chinese emigrants varied depending on the location they have chosen. Hence, emigrants from Suriname and Indonesia were shorter than some Chinese prisoners who used to live in the U.S. and Australia. [47]

1967 photo of Indonesian-Chinese family from Hubei ancestry, the second and third generations. Old Indonesian Peng family.jpg
1967 photo of Indonesian-Chinese family from Hubei ancestry, the second and third generations.
Chinese merchants in Penang Island, Straits Settlements (present-day Malaysia), c. 1881. Chinese merchants grouped outside their club house on Penang Island, 1881.jpg
Chinese merchants in Penang Island, Straits Settlements (present-day Malaysia), c.1881.

When 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.[ dubious ] The republic lasted until 1884, when it fell under Dutch occupation as Qing influence waned.

Chinese Filipino.jpg
A Chinese Filipino wearing the traditional Maria Clara gown of Filipino women, c.1913.
Commercant chinois Hanoi 2.jpg
A Chinese Vietnamese merchant in Hanoi, c.1885.

Republic of China

Under the administration of the Republic of China from 1912 to 1949, these rules were abolished and many migrated outside the Republic of China, mostly through the coastal regions via the ports of Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan and Shanghai. These migrations are considered to be among the largest in China's history. Many nationals of the Republic of China fled and settled down in 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 in 1949. Most of the nationalist and neutral refugees fled Mainland China to Southeast Asia (Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines) as well as Taiwan (Republic of China). Many nationalists who stayed behind were persecuted or even executed. [48] [49]

The presence of a Chinese junk in northern Borneo on Kinabatangan, North Borneo as photographed by Martin and Osa Johnson in 1935. Chinese junk in Kinabatangan, Borneo.JPG
The presence of a Chinese junk in northern Borneo on Kinabatangan, North Borneo as photographed by Martin and Osa Johnson in 1935.

After World War 2

Most of the Chinese who fled during 1912–1949 under the Republic of China settled down in Singapore and Malaysia and automatically gained citizenship in 1957 and 1963 as these countries gained independence. [50] [51] Kuomintang members who settled in Malaysia and 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. [52] [53]

During the 1950s and 1960s, the ROC tended to seek the support of overseas Chinese communities through branches of the Kuomintang based 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[ where? ] that overseas Chinese owed primary loyalty to their home nation.[ dubious ]

From the mid-20th 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 world. The 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 leave Hong Kong at short notice. In fact, after the Tiananmen Square incident, the lines for immigration visas increased at every consulate in Hong Kong.[ citation needed ]

In recent years, the People's Republic of China has built increasingly stronger ties with African nations. In 2014, author Howard French estimated that over one million Chinese have moved in the past 20 years to Africa. [54]

More recent Chinese presences have developed in Europe, where they number well over 1 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 bristles with Chinese markets, restaurants and trade houses. A growing Chinese community in Germany consists of around 76,000 people as of 2010. [55] An estimated 15,000 to 30,000 Chinese live in Austria. [56]

Chinese emigrant (Overseas Chinese) experience

Thai Chinese in the past set up small enterprises such as street vending to eke out a living. Chinese Thai vendor.jpg
Thai Chinese in the past set up small enterprises such as street vending to eke out a living.

Commercial success

Chinese emigrants are estimated to control US$2 trillion in liquid assets and have considerable amounts of wealth to stimulate economic power in China. [57] [58] The Chinese business community of Southeast Asia, known as the bamboo network, has a prominent role in the region's private sectors. [59] [60]

In Europe, North America 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 after India of top remittance-receiving countries in 2018 with over US$67 billion sent. [61]


Hakka people in a wedding in East Timor, 2006 East Timor hakka wedding.jpg
Hakka people in a wedding in East Timor, 2006

Chinese diaspora 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 royal house of Thailand, the Chakri Dynasty, was founded by King Rama I who himself was partly Chinese. His predecessor, King Taksin of the Thonburi Kingdom, was 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 noble title of Somdet Krom Phra Phithak Thephamat).

Sangley in Boxer Codex.jpg
Chinese (Sangley) in the Philippines, (1590) via Boxer Codex
Sangelys, detail from Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica de las Yslas Filipinas (1734).jpg
Sangleys, of different religion and social classes, as depicted in the Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica de las Yslas Filipinas (1734)
Mestizos Sangley y Chino by Justiano Asuncion.jpg
Chinese Filipino mestizos (Mestizos de Sangley y Chino) Tipos del País Watercolor by Justiniano Asuncion (1841)

In the Philippines, Chinese, known as the Sangley, from Fujian and Guangdong were already migrating to the islands, as early as the 9th century in precolonial to Spanish and American colonial times and have largely intermarried with both indigenous Filipinos and Spanish colonisers. Early presence of chinatowns in overseas communities start to appear in Spanish colonial Philippines, around as early as 1583 (or even earlier), in the form of Parians in Manila, where Chinese merchants were allowed to reside and flourish as commercial centers, thus Binondo, a historical district of Manila, has become one of the world's oldest Chinatowns. [62] Their colonial mixed descendants, known as the Mestizos de Sangley, would eventually form the bulk of the middle-class elite in Spanish colonial Philippines. The emergence of the Mestizo class would later rise to the noble Principalia class, which later carried over and fueled the elite ruling classes of the American era and later sovereign Philippines. Since the 1860s, most Chinese immigrants of the contemporary Chinese Filipinos have come from Fujian and thus form the bulk of the contemporary mixed and unmixed Chinese Filipinos and Filipinos of partial Chinese ancestry. Older generations have retained Chinese traditions and the use of Philippine Hokkien (Min Nan), while the current 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.

Since their early migration, many of the overseas Chinese have adopted local culture, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand with large Peranakan community. Most of them in Singapore were once concentrated in Katong. East Coast Road 3, Mar 06.JPG
Since their early migration, many of the overseas Chinese have adopted local culture, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand with large Peranakan community. Most of them in Singapore were once concentrated in Katong.

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. Indonesia and 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 ethnic Chinese people to use their Chinese name or using their Chinese family name on their birth certificate.

A Malaysian Chinese praying in Puu Jih Shih Temple, Sandakan, Sabah in front of Guanyin during Chinese New Year in 2013. Sandakan Sabah PuuJihShihTemple-09.jpg
A Malaysian Chinese praying in Puu Jih Shih Temple, Sandakan, Sabah in front of Guanyin during Chinese New Year in 2013.

In Vietnam, all Chinese names can be pronounced by Sino-Vietnamese readings. For example, the name of the previous paramount leader Hú Jǐntāo (胡錦濤) would be spelled as "Hồ Cẩm Đào" in Vietnamese. There are also great similarities between Vietnamese and Chinese traditions such as the use Lunar New Year, philosophy such as Confucianism, Taoism and ancestor worship; leads to some Hoa people adopt easily to Vietnamese culture, however many Hoa still prefer to maintain Chinese cultural background. 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 rests live in the southern provinces. [16]

On the other hand, in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, the ethnic Chinese have maintained a distinct communal identity.

In East Timor, a large fraction of Chinese are of Hakka descent.

In Western countries, the overseas Chinese generally use romanised versions of their Chinese names, and the use of local first names is also common.


Overseas Chinese have often experienced hostility and discrimination. In countries with small ethnic 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 the Philippine and Indonesian private economies. [63] 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 Thailand and Singapore". [64] Chinese market dominance is present in Thailand and the Philippines, but is noted for its lack of resentment, while Singapore is majority ethnic Chinese. Widespread violent anti-Chinese sentiment spread across Southeast Asia, mostly occur in Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia, but not very much in Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines.

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 in Malaysia in 1969 and the Jakarta riots of May 1998 in Indonesia, in which more than 2,000 people died, mostly rioters burned to death in a shopping mall. [65] During the colonial era, some genocides killed tens of thousands of Chinese. [66] [67] [68] [69]

During the Indonesian killings of 1965–66, in which more than 500,000 people died, [70] 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. [71] [72] The anti-Chinese legislation was in the Indonesian constitution until 1998.

The state of the Chinese Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge regime has been described as "the worst disaster ever to befall any ethnic Chinese community in Southeast Asia." At the beginning of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1975, there were 425,000 ethnic Chinese in Cambodia; by the end of 1979 there were just 200,000. [73]

It is commonly held that a major point of friction is the apparent tendency of overseas Chinese to segregate themselves into a subculture.[ citation needed ] For example, the anti-Chinese Kuala Lumpur Racial Riots of 13 May 1969 and Jakarta Riots of May 1998 were believed to have been motivated by these racially biased perceptions. [74] 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. [75] In 2006, rioters damaged shops owned by Chinese-Tongans in Nukuʻalofa. [76] Chinese migrants were evacuated from the riot-torn Solomon Islands. [77]

Ethnic politics can be found to motivate both sides of the debate. In Malaysia, ethnic 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. [78]

Many of the overseas Chinese emigrants who worked on railways in North America in the 19th century suffered from racial discrimination in Canada and 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 example the United States 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 [79] 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 Overseas Chinese Museum, Xiamen, China.JPG
Overseas Chinese Museum, Xiamen, China

Both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China maintain high level relationships with the 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.

Citizenship status

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" (Article 5). [80]

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 Taiwan).

Returning and re-emigration

With China's growing economic prospects, many of the overseas Chinese have begun to migrate back to China, even as many mainland Chinese millionaires are considering emigrating out of the nation for better opportunities. [81]

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 of 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 the 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 countries. [82]

After the Deng Xiaoping reforms, the attitude of the PRC toward the 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 of the Chinese diaspora are now investing in People's Republic of China providing financial resources, social and cultural networks, contacts and opportunities. [83] [84]

The Chinese government estimates that of the 1,200,000 Chinese people who have gone overseas to study in the thirty years since China's economic reforms beginning in 1978; three-quarters of those who left have not returned to China. [85]

Beijing is attracting overseas-trained academics back home, in an attempt to internationalise its universities. However, "returnee" professors educated to the PhD level in the West have reported feeling "marginalised" "depressed" or "anxious" due to cultural differences when they return to China. [86]


Typical grocery store on 8th Avenue in one of the Brooklyn Chinatowns (Bu Lu Ke Lin Hua Bu ) on Long Island, New York, US. Multiple Chinatowns in Manhattan (Niu Yue Hua Bu ), Queens (Fa La Sheng Hua Bu ), 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, The New York metropolitan area contains the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia, comprising an estimated 893,697 uniracial individuals as of 2017. Brooklyn Chinatown.png
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, The New York metropolitan area contains the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia, comprising an estimated 893,697 uniracial individuals as of 2017.

The usage of Chinese by the 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 Asia have 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. [93] [94]

Country statistics

There are over 50 million overseas Chinese. [1] [2] [95] [3] Most of them are living in Southeast Asia where they make up a majority of the population of Singapore (75%) and significant minority populations in Malaysia (23%), Thailand (14%) and Brunei (10%).

Visualization of overseas Chinese populations by country Chinese Diaspora By Country.png
Visualization of overseas Chinese populations by country
Continent / countryArticlesChinese Diaspora PopulationPercentageYear of dataPartial Chinese Ancestry
Africa 700 000
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa Chinese South Africans 400,000<1%2015 [21]
Flag of Madagascar.svg  Madagascar Chinese people in Madagascar 100,0002011 [96]
Flag of Zambia.svg  Zambia Chinese people in Zambia 80,0002019 [97]
Flag of Ethiopia.svg  Ethiopia Chinese people in Ethiopia 60,0002016 [98] [99]
Flag of Angola.svg  Angola Chinese people in Angola 50,0002017 [100]
Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria Chinese people in Nigeria 40,0002017 [101]
Flag of Mauritius.svg  Mauritius Sino-Mauritian 38,5003%2010 [102]
Flag of Algeria.svg  Algeria Chinese people in Algeria 35,0002009 [103]
Flag of Tanzania.svg  Tanzania Chinese people in Tanzania 30,0002013 [104]
Flag of France.svg  Réunion Chinois 25,0001999 [105]
Flag of the Republic of the Congo.svg  Republic of Congo Chinese people in the Republic of Congo 20,0002013
Flag of Mozambique.svg  Mozambique Ethnic Chinese in Mozambique 12,0002007 [106]
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe Chinese people in Zimbabwe 10,0002017 [107]
Flag of Egypt.svg  Egypt Chinese people in Egypt 6,000–10,0002007 [108]
Flag of Sudan.svg  Sudan Chinese people in the Sudan 5,000–10,0002005–2007 [108]
Flag of Ghana.svg  Ghana Chinese people in Ghana 7,0002010
Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya Chinese people in Kenya 7,0002013 [109]
Flag of Uganda.svg  Uganda Chinese people in Uganda 7,0002010 [110]
Flag of Botswana.svg  Botswana Chinese people in Botswana 5,000–6,0002009 [111]
Flag of Lesotho.svg  Lesotho Chinese people in Lesotho 5,0002011 [112]
Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.svg  Democratic Republic of Congo Chinese people in the DRC 4,000–5,0002015 [113]
Flag of Cameroon.svg  Cameroon Chinese people in Cameroon 3,000–5,0002012 [114]
Flag of Guinea.svg  Guinea Chinese people in Guinea 5,0002012 [114]
Flag of Namibia.svg  Namibia Chinese people in Namibia 130, 000–140, 0002009[ citation needed ]
Flag of Benin.svg  Benin Chinese people in Benin 4,0002007 [108]
Flag of Cote d'Ivoire.svg  Ivory Coast Chinese people in Ivory Coast 3,0002012 [114]
Flag of Mali.svg  Mali Chinese people in Mali 3,0002014 [115]
Flag of Togo.svg  Togo Chinese people in Togo 3,0002007 [108]
Flag of Cape Verde.svg  Cape Verde Chinese people in Cape Verde 2,3002008 [116]
Flag of Malawi.svg  Malawi Chinese people in Malawi 2,0002007 [108]
Flag of Rwanda.svg  Rwanda Chinese people in Rwanda 1,000–2,0002011 [117]
Flag of Senegal.svg  Senegal Chinese people in Senegal 1,5002012 [114]
Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco Chinese people in Morocco 1,2002004 [118]
Flag of the Seychelles.svg  Seychelles Sino-Seychellois 1,0001999 [119]
Flag of Liberia.svg  Liberia Chinese people in Liberia 6002006 [108]
Flag of Burkina Faso.svg  Burkina Faso Chinese people in Burkina Faso 5002012 [114]
Flag of Libya.svg  Libya Chinese people in Libya 3002014 [120]
Asia / Middle East 29 000 000
Flag of Thailand.svg  Thailand Thai Chinese, Peranakan 11,458,80016%2015 [5]
Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia Malaysian Chinese, Peranakan 6,642,00023%2015 [6]
Flag of Indonesia.svg  Indonesia Chinese Indonesian, Peranakan 2,832,510 (Totok Chinese)

6,500,000 (Peranakan Chinese)

1.2% (Official)

3.5% (Estimation)

2010 [121] 7,000,000
Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore Chinese Singaporean, Peranakan 2,571,00076.2%2015 [9]
Flag of Myanmar.svg  Myanmar Burmese Chinese, Panthay 1,637,5403%2012 [11]
Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines Chinese Filipino, Tornatras, Sangley 1,146,250–1,400,0001.5%2013 [122] 27,000,000 Mestizos/Mixed
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan Chinese in Japan 922,000 [note 1] <1%2017 [15]
Flag of Vietnam.svg  Vietnam Hoa people 749,466<1%2019 [16]
Flag of Cambodia.svg  Cambodia Chinese Cambodian 343,8552%2014 [123] 700,000
Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea Chinese in South Korea 310 464–1,070,566 (including ethnic Korean)2%2018 [124]
Flag of Laos.svg  Laos Laotian Chinese 185,7653%2005 [125]
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  United Arab Emirates Chinese people in the United Arab Emirates 180,0002%2009 [126]
Flag of Pakistan.svg  Pakistan Chinese people in Pakistan 60,0002018 [127]
Flag of Brunei.svg  Brunei Ethnic Chinese in Brunei 42,10010%2015 [128]
Flag of Israel.svg  Israel Chinese people in Israel 10,0002010 [129]
Flag of North Korea.svg  North Korea Chinese in North Korea 10,0002009 [130]
Flag of India.svg  India Chinese in India 9,000–85,000 (including Tibetan)2018 [28]
Flag of Mongolia.svg  Mongolia Ethnic Chinese in Mongolia 8,6882010[ citation needed ]
Flag of Bangladesh.svg  Bangladesh 7,500
Flag of Qatar.svg  Qatar 6,0002014 [131]
Flag of Sri Lanka.svg  Sri Lanka Chinese people in Sri Lanka 3,500 ? [132]
Flag of Kazakhstan.svg  Kazakhstan Chinese in Kazakhstan 3,4242009 [133]
Flag of Iran.svg  Iran Chinese people in Iran 3,000
Flag of Kyrgyzstan.svg  Kyrgyzstan Chinese people in Kyrgyzstan 1,8132009 [134]
Flag of Nepal.svg    Nepal 1,3442001[ citation needed ]
Europe 2 230 000
Flag of France.svg  France Chinese French, Chinese diaspora in France, Chinois (Réunion) 700,0001%2010 [135]
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom British Chinese 433,150<1%2011
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy Chinese people in Italy 320,794<1%2013 [24]
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain Chinese people in Spain 215,9702019 [26]
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia Chinese people in Russia 160,0002020[ citation needed ]
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Chinese people in Germany 145,6102020 [136]
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands Chinese people in the Netherlands 94,000<1%2018 [137]
Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden Chinese people in Sweden 38,6262020 [138]
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal Chinese people in Portugal 27,839 [139] 2019
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium Chinese people in Belgium 20,8662018[ citation needed ]
Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland Chinese people in Ireland 19,4472016 [140]
Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary --18,8512018[ citation needed ]
Flag of Austria.svg  Austria --16,3312015 [141]
Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland --15,7962019 [142]
Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark Chinese people in Denmark 15,1032020[ citation needed ]
Flag of Norway.svg  Norway --13,3502020[ citation needed ]
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey Chinese people in Turkey, Uyghurs 12,426–60,000 (including Uyghur)2015[ citation needed ]
Flag of Finland.svg  Finland --10,0402018[ citation needed ]
Flag of Poland.svg  Poland 8,6562019[ citation needed ]}
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic Chinese people in the Czech Republic 7,4852018[ citation needed ]
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania Chinese of Romania 5,0002017[ citation needed ]
Flag of Luxembourg.svg  Luxembourg 4,0002020 [143]
Flag of Slovakia.svg  Slovakia 2,3462016[ citation needed ]
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine 2,2132001[ citation needed ]
Flag of Greece.svg  Greece 2,2002017 [144]
Flag of Serbia.svg  Serbia Chinese people in Serbia 1,3732011 [145]
Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria Chinese people in Bulgaria 1,2362015[ citation needed ]
Flag of Iceland.svg  Iceland --6862019[ citation needed ]
Flag of Estonia.svg  Estonia --1042013 [146]
Americas 8 215 000
Flag of the United States.svg  United States Chinese American, American-born Chinese 5,025,8171.5%2017 [147]
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada Chinese Canadian, Canadian-born Chinese 1,769,1955.1%2016 [148]
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil Chinese Brazilian 250,0002017 [125]
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina Chinese Argentines 200,0002018 [149] [150] [151]
Flag of Panama.svg  Panama Chinese-Panamanian 200,0004%2018 [152]
Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico Chinese Mexican 24,4892019 [153] 70,000
Flag of Peru.svg  Peru Chinese-Peruvian 14,2232017 [20] 1,200,000
Flag of Chile.svg  Chile Chinese people in Chile 17,0212017 [154] 20,000
Flag of Venezuela.svg  Venezuela Chinese Venezuelans 15,3582011[ citation needed ]400,000
Flag of the Dominican Republic.svg  Dominican Republic Ethnic Chinese in the Dominican Republic 15,0002017 [155] 60,000
Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua Chinese people in Nicaragua 12,000-- [156]
Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica Chinese people in Costa Rica 9,1702011 [157] [ circular reference ]45,000
Flag of Suriname.svg  Suriname Chinese-Surinamese 7,8851.5%2012 [158]
Flag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica Chinese Jamaicans 5,2282011[ citation needed ]75,000
Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg  Trinidad & Tobago Chinese Trinidadian and Tobagonian 3,9842011[ citation needed ]
Flag of Guyana.svg  Guyana Chinese Guyanese 2,3772012[ citation needed ]
Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia 2,1762017 [159] 25,000
Flag of Belize.svg  Belize Ethnic Chinese in Belize 1,7162000 [160]
Flag of Cuba.svg  Cuba Chinese Cuban 1,3002008 [161] 114,240
Oceania 1 500 000
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia Chinese Australian 1,213,9035.6%2016 [162] [163]
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand Chinese New Zealander 231,3864.9%2018 [164]
Flag of Papua New Guinea.svg  Papua New Guinea Chinese people in Papua New Guinea 20,0002008 [165] [166]
Flag of Fiji.svg  Fiji Chinese in Fiji 8,0002012 [167]
Flag of Tonga.svg  Tonga Chinese in Tonga 3,0002001 [168] [169]
Flag of Palau.svg  Palau Chinese in Palau 1,0302012 [170]
Flag of Samoa.svg  Samoa Chinese in Samoa 6202015 [171] [ circular reference ]30,000

See also


  1. The Japanese nationals with Chinese ethnicity are excluded.

Related Research Articles

A Chinatown is an ethnic enclave of Chinese people located outside mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan, most often in an urban setting. Areas known as "Chinatown" exist throughout the world, including Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Australasia.

Mainland China Geopolitical area known as the Peoples Republic of China

Mainland China, also known as the Chinese mainland, China mainland, or the Mainland Area of the Republic of China is the geopolitical area under the direct jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China (PRC) since October 1, 1949. It includes Hainan, which is an island province in the South China Sea, but it excludes the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, even though both are mostly on the geographic continental landmass.

The Han Chinese, Hanzu, or Han people are an East Asian ethnic group and nation native to China. Historically, they were native to the Yellow River Basin region of modern China. They constitute the world's largest ethnic group, making up about 18% of the global population and consisting of various subgroups speaking distinctive varieties of the Chinese language. The estimated 1.4 billion Han Chinese people are mostly concentrated in the People's Republic of China, where they make up about 92% of the total population. In the Republic of China (Taiwan), they make up about 97% of the population. People of Han Chinese descent also make up around 75% of the total population of Singapore.

Ethnic minorities in China are the non-Han Chinese population in the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Names of China

The names of China include the many contemporary and historical appellations given in various languages for the East Asian country known as Zhōngguó in its official language. China, the name in English for the country, was derived from Portuguese in the 16th century, and became popular in the mid 19th century. It is believed to be a borrowing from Middle Persian, and some have traced it further back to Sanskrit. It is also thought that the ultimate source of the name China is the Chinese word "Qin", the name of the dynasty that unified China but also existed as a state for many centuries prior. There are, however, other alternative suggestions for the origin of the word.

Chinese people Ethnic group

Chinese people are people or ethnic groups identified with China, usually through ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, or other affiliation.

Chinatowns in Asia

Chinatowns in Asia are widespread with a large concentration of overseas Chinese in East Asia and Southeast Asia and ethnic Chinese whose ancestors came from southern China - particularly the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, and Hainan - and settled in countries such as Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, India, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Korea centuries ago—starting as early as the Tang Dynasty, but mostly notably in the 17th through the 19th centuries, and well into the 20th century. Today the Chinese diaspora in Asia is largely concentrated in Southeast Asia however the legacy of the once widespread overseas Chinese communities in Asia is evident in the many Chinatowns that are found across East, South and Southeast Asia.

Huaxia Historical concept of China

Huaxia is a historical concept representing the Chinese nation and civilization, and came from the self-awareness of a common cultural ancestry by the various confederacy (pre-Qin) era Han Chinese people.

The subgroups of the Han Chinese people, Chinese dialect groups or just dialect groups, are defined based on linguistic, cultural, ethnic, genetic and regional features. The terminology used in Mandarin to describe the groups is: "minxi", used in Mainland China or "zuqun", used in Taiwan. No Han subgroup is recognized as one of People's Republic of China's 56 official minority ethnic groups. Scholars like James W. Hayes have described the Han Chinese subgroups as "ethnic group" outright, at least in the context of Hong Kong society.

Kizilsu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture Autonomous prefecture in Xinjiang, Peoples Republic of China

Kizilsu is an autonomous prefecture of Kyrgyz people in the west of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, bordering with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The prefecture has an area of 69,112 km2 (26,684 sq mi) and its capital is Artux.

James Shoal

James Shoal is an underwater shoal (bank) in the South China Sea, with a depth of 22 metres (72 ft) below the surface of the sea, located about 45 nautical miles off the Borneo coast of Malaysia. It is claimed by Malaysia, the People's Republic of China, and the Republic of China (Taiwan). The shoal and its surrounds are administered by Malaysia.

Chinese emigration Diasporic migration

Waves of Chinese emigration have happened throughout history. The mass emigration, which occurred from the 19th century to 1949, was mainly caused by corruption, starvation, and war in mainland China, and economic opportunities abroad such as the California gold rush in 1849. Most emigrants were illiterate peasants and manual labourers, who emigrated to work in places such as the Americas, Australia, South Africa, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand.

There has existed a recognizable community of Chinese people in Korea since the 1880s. Most early migrants came from Shandong province on the east coast of China. However, after the People's Republic of China (PRC)'s "reform and opening up" and subsequent normalization of People's Republic of China – South Korea relations, a new wave of Chinese migration to South Korea has occurred. In 2009, more than half of the South Korea's 1.1 million foreign residents were PRC citizens; 71% of those are Joseonjok, PRC citizens of Korean ethnicity. There is also a small community of PRC citizens in North Korea.

Chinese people in Japan include any people self-identifying as ethnic Chinese or people possessing Chinese citizenship living in Japan. People aged 22 or older cannot possess dual-citizenship in Japan, so Chinese possessing Japanese citizenship typically no longer possess Chinese citizenship. The term "Chinese people" typically refers to the Han Chinese, the main ethnic group living in China (PRC), Taiwan (ROC) and Singapore. Officially, China (PRC) is home to 55 additional ethnic minorities, including people such as Tibetans, though these people might not self-identify as Chinese. Han Chinese people have had a long history in Japan as a minority.

Min-speaking peoples are a major subgroup of the Han Chinese (115 Million)(Min Chinese). They are a Min Chinese-speaking people that mainly live in Fujian, Hainan, Southern Zhejiang and Guangdong province's Leizhou and Chaoshan regions. In the Chinese diaspora, they form the majority of people in Taiwan and the majority of Han Chinese in Southeast Asia including countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. The latter two countries are Teochew-speaking.

The Chinese people in Pakistan comprise one of the country's significant expatriate communities. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has raised the expatriate population, which has grown from 20,000 in 2013 to 60,000 in 2018.

<i>Zhonghua minzu</i> Chinese Races. Sometimes Zhonghua races are used as an alternative to Chinese People or people with the nationality of China or Taiwan. However, the concept basically includes all the human races that are living in the land and those are genetically originated from the land. The concept is often politically entwined with modern Chinese history of nation-building and race

Zhonghua minzu is a key political term in modern Chinese nationalism related to the concepts of nation-building, ethnicity, and race in the Chinese nationality.

Yokohama Yamate Chinese School School

The Yokohama Yamate Chinese School is a Chinese-style primary and junior high school in Naka-ku, Yokohama, Japan. Serving levels kindergarten through ninth grade, it is one of two Chinese schools in Japan oriented towards Mainland China, and one of five Chinese schools total. As of 2008 Pan Minsheng is the principal.

Han Taiwanese or Taiwanese Han are a Taiwanese ethnic group, most of whom are of full or partial Han descent. According to the Executive Yuan Taiwan, they comprise 95 to 97 percent of the Taiwanese population, which also includes Austronesians and other non-Han people. Major waves of Han immigration occurred since the 17th century to the end of Chinese Civil War in 1949, with the exception of the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945). Han Taiwanese mainly speak three Chinese languages: Mandarin, Hokkien and Hakka.


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