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Overseas Chinese

Overseas Chinese (華僑 in pinyin: huqio, or 華胞 hubāo, or 僑胞 qiobāo) are ethnic Chinese who live outside of Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan. There are approximately 60 million overseas Chinese mostly living in southeast Asia where they make up a majority of the population of Singapore and significant minority populations in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. The overseas populations in those areas arrived between the 16th and the 19th centuries from mostly the maritime provinces of Guangdong and Fujian, followed by Taiwan and Shandong.

More recent emigration has been directed primarily to North America with the United States and Canada being destinations. (see entries on Malaysian Chinese, Indonesian Chinese, Burmese Chinese, Chinese Singaporean, Chinese Canadian, Chinese Cuban, Chinese Filipino, Chinese Peruvian, Chinese Puerto Rican,Chinese Cayman Islander Chinese American, American-born Chinese, Taiwanese American and Chinese British).

Population (1998)
Area % Number
Asia 80 17,070,000
Americas 11.63 5,020,000
Europe 2.3 945,000
Oceania 1.28 564,000
Africa 0.3 126,000
Total 100 33,720,000

Overseas Chinese vary widely as to their degree of assimilation, their interactions with the surrounding communities (see Chinatown), and their relationship with China. In Thailand, overseas Chinese have largely intermarried and assimilated with the native community. In Myanmar, the Chinese rarely intermarry, but have adopted the Burmese culture, maintaining both Chinese and Burmese identities. On the other hand, in Malaysia and Singapore, overseas Chinese have maintained a distinct communal identity.

Often there are different waves of immigration leading to subgroups among overseas Chinese such as the new and old immigrants in Cambodia and Indonesia.

The Chinese in southeast Asian countries have often established themselves in commerce and finances. In North America, because of immigration policies, overseas Chinese tend to be found in professional occupations, including significant ranks in medicine and academia.

Both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China on Taiwan maintain highly complex 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. Both the PRC and ROC have some legislative representation for overseas Chinese. In the case of the PRC, some seats in the National People's Congress are allocated for returned overseas Chinese. In the Legislative Yuan, there are a small number of seats allocated for overseas Chinese. These seats are apportioned to the political parties based on their vote totals on Taiwan, and then the parties assign the seats to overseas Chinese party loyalists.

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 that overseas Chinese owed primary loyalty to their home nation.

After the Deng Xiaoping reforms, the attitude of the PRC toward overseas Chinese changed dramatically. Rather than being seen with suspicion, they were seen as people which 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 were confiscated after the 1949 revolution. More recently PRC policy has attempted to maintain the support of recently emigrated Chinese, who consist largely of Chinese seeking graduate education in the West.

Overseas Chinese have sometimes played an important role in Chinese politics. Most of the funding for the Chinese revolution of 1911 came from overseas Chinese, and many overseas Chinese are overseas for political reasons.

See also

Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13