Chinese New Zealanders

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Chinese New Zealanders
Total population
231,386 (2018)
4.9% of the population[1]
Regions with significant populations
Related ethnic groups
Chinese New Zealanders
Traditional Chinese紐西蘭華人
Simplified Chinese纽西兰华人
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese新西蘭華人
Simplified Chinese新西兰华人

Chinese New Zealanders are New Zealanders of Chinese ancestry. Many of the Chinese immigrants came from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other countries that have large populations of Chinese diaspora; today's Chinese New Zealand group is composed of diasporic communities from Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore.[2][3] As of 2018, Chinese New Zealanders account for 4.9% of the population of New Zealand, and are the largest Asian ethnic group in New Zealand, accounting for 36.3% of Asian New Zealanders.[4] They constitute one group of overseas Chinese and represent the second largest Chinese community in Oceania, behind the Chinese community in Australia.

Appo Hocton (c.1823 – 26 September 1920), with a birth name of Wong Ahpoo Hock Ting or Wong Ah Poo Hock Ting, was a Chinese-born New Zealand servant, landlord, carter and farmer. He was born on circa 1823.[5] He was the first recorded Chinese emigrant to New Zealand, arriving in Nelson on 25 October 1842.[6]

Later some ethnically Chinese New Zealanders who were immigrants from the Guangdong of China, arrived during the 1860s[7] goldrush era. Due to this historical influx, there is still a distinct Chinese community in the southern city of Dunedin, whose former mayor Peter Chin is of Chinese descent. However, most Chinese New Zealanders live in the North Island, and are of more recent migrant heritage.[8]


There were 247,770 people identifying as being part of the Chinese ethnic group at the 2018 New Zealand census, making up 5.3% of New Zealand's population. This is an increase of 76,359 people (44.5%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 100,200 people (67.9%) since the 2006 census. Some of the increase between the 2013 and 2018 census was due to Statistics New Zealand adding ethnicity data from other sources (previous censuses, administrative data, and imputation) to the 2018 census data to reduce the number of non-responses.[9]

There were 116,220 males and 131,553 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.883 males per female. Of the population, 48,633 people (19.6%) were aged under 15 years, 61,002 (24.6%) were 15 to 29, 114,510 (46.2%) were 30 to 64, and 23,625 (9.5%) were 65 or older.[10]

In terms of population distribution, 69.1% of Chinese New Zealanders live in the Auckland region, 18.9% live in the North Island outside the Auckland region, and 11.9% live in the South Island. The Howick local board area of Auckland has the highest concentration of Chinese people at 25.6%, followed by the Upper Harbour local board area (23.6%) and the Puketāpapa local board area (16.5%). The Buller District and Central Hawke's Bay District had the lowest concentrations of Chinese people at 0.3%.[11]

According to the 2013 census, 26.6 percent of Chinese New Zealanders were born in New Zealand, the majority of whom were aged under 15. Of those born overseas, 70.9 percent were born in mainland China, 74.8 percent had been living in New Zealand for at least five years, and 16.8 percent had been living in New Zealand for at least 20 years.[12]

In the 2001 Census, 3% of the total New Zealand population (105,057 people) identified as Chinese[4][13][14] The majority of Chinese New Zealanders were from Mainland China, Taiwan made up a third of all immigrants and ten percent came from Malaysia. The remainder of Chinese immigrants to New Zealand came from Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Indonesia.[3]


English is by far the most widely spoken language among the usually resident Asian population in New Zealand. Nonetheless the next most common language after English in New Zealand was Yue or Cantonese (16 percent of Asian people with a language) and Northern Chinese/Mandarin (12 percent).[4] Some Chinese New Zealanders also adhere to speaking Malay and Indonesian due to a small influx of Chinese immigrants from Southeast Asia.[3]

New Zealand Chinese Journals (1920–1972)[15] The NZ Chinese Journals database contains over 16,000 digitised pages from three Chinese-language publications:

Man Sing Times (1921–1922) New Zealand Chinese Growers Monthly Journal (1949 –1972) New Zealand Chinese Weekly News (1937–1946)


Religion Percentage of the Chinese population in New Zealand
Buddhist 11.1%
Christian (not further defined) 5.9%
Catholic 5.2%
No religion 63.1%
Object to answering 3.7%

Source: 2013 Census[16]


Early Immigrants (1865–1945)[edit]

The first immigration to New Zealand took place on the strength of two invitations from New Zealand's Otago goldmining region to potential goldminers of Guangdong province in 1865. These original goldmining communities suffered discrimination due to racist ideology, the economic competition they represented to the Europeans, and because of the implied 'disloyalty' within their transient, sojourner outlook.[8] While many believe there was a 'White New Zealand' policy similar to Australia's, New Zealand never had such a policy openly sanctioned and was open to Pacific Island immigration from its early history.[17] However, in the 1880s, openly sinophobic political ideology resulted in the New Zealand head tax, also known as the 'Poll Tax', aimed specifically at Chinese migrants. Despite official barriers the Chinese still managed to develop their communities in this period, and numbers were bolstered when some wives and children from Guangdong Province were allowed in as refugees just before World War II. New Zealanders of Chinese descent also fought for New Zealand in World War II. During World War I, Cecil Alloo rose from the ranks to become the first commissioned officer of Chinese descent in New Zealand's armed forces.[18] Chain migration from Guangdong continued until the new Communist Chinese regime stopped emigration. This original group of Cantonese migrants and their descendants are referred to in New Zealand as 'Old Generation' Chinese, and are now a minority within the overall Chinese population.[8]

John Hall's government passed the Chinese Immigration Act 1881. This imposed a £10 tax per Chinese person entering New Zealand, and permitted only one Chinese immigrant for every 10 tons of cargo. Richard Seddon's government increased the tax to £100 per head in 1896, and tightened the other restriction to only one Chinese immigrant for every 200 tons of cargo.

After the Second World War (1945–1999)[edit]

Ethnic Chinese communities from countries other than China began establishing themselves in New Zealand between the 1960s and 1980s. These included ethnic Chinese refugees from Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos following the conflicts and upheavals in those countries; Commonwealth (i.e. English educated) professional migrants from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia; and Samoan Chinese as part of the substantial Pacific labour migrations of the 1970s.

Between 1987 and 1996, a fundamental change in New Zealand's immigration policy led to a substantial influx of ethnic Chinese business, investor, and professional migrants, particularly from Hong Kong and Taiwan. This period saw a spike in overall migration from the Asian region, including other Chinese people from East Asia and Southeast Asia. New Zealand's immigration system increasingly experienced the impact of global events, such as the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and the May 1998 riots of Indonesia in which many Chinese were affected.

Since 2000[edit]

The nationalist New Zealand First Party fought the 1996 general election on an anti-immigration and very thinly veiled 'anti-Asian' platform,[19] winning the balance of power and altering immigration policy towards skills-based immigration. From the late 1990s to the 2000s, skilled migrants from Mainland China became the new significant demographic group of Chinese immigrants.

In 2002, the New Zealand Government publicly apologised to the Chinese for the poll tax that had been levied on their ancestors a century ago.[20]

In 2010, Mainland China for the first time has become New Zealand's top source country for family immigration through the Family Sponsored Stream and the Partnership policy in New Zealand, as large numbers of Chinese nationals choose to study abroad in New Zealand and then gain the recognised qualifications to obtain skilled employment in New Zealand.[21]




While New Zealand teachers and parents generally choose a lenient approach for children's learning, literature shows a contrary belief and practice among Chinese immigrant parents in New Zealand show that they place much more value on children's academics than focusing on the playful aspects. Chinese immigrant parents on the other hand see homework as a catapult for higher education as well as to prepare their children to pursue greater academic achievement. Chinese parents continue to uphold their Chinese Confucian cultural values and pursue academic learning for their children, while Western parents and teachers tend to follow a play and child-centered techniques. The findings show that different or even contradictory expectations and practices exist among Chinese immigrant parents. Chinese immigrant parents see education and schoolwork as the preparation, revision, and extension of children's knowledge. Learning is revered in Chinese culture. It reinforces the child's overall cognitive development during their early childhood years. Thus a sense of family obligation acts as children's extrinsic motivation to perform well academically.[3][unreliable source?]

A high value on education is placed among Chinese New Zealand families.[23] Chinese New Zealanders rank the fourth highest ethnic group among Asian New Zealanders with 22 percent holding a bachelor's degree. Among New Zealand-born Chinese, 23 percent had obtained a degree comparable to 23% for Asian New Zealanders but nearly twice the national average of 12%.[4]


Among the Asian populations, several groups had rates of labour force participation as high as, if not higher than, that of the average New Zealand population. The New Zealand-born Chinese population had high rates of participation, with 75 percent of Chinese New Zealanders participating in the workforce. Overseas-born New Zealand Chinese, who accounted for a third of the Asian population, had a labour force participation rate of 45 percent in 2001. Overseas-born Chinese people (86 percent) were slightly more likely to hold a qualification than Chinese people born in New Zealand (83 percent)[4] New Zealand-born and overseas-born Chinese (47 percent and 44 percent, respectively) are working in selected white collar professions compared to 40% for the total New Zealand population and 43% for Asian New Zealanders.[4] Chinese New Zealanders also register an unemployment rate lower than the national average, where overseas-born Chinese had an unemployment rate of 15% and New Zealand-born Chinese had an unemployment rate of 8%. Therefore, on average, the overall unemployment rate of 11.5% was lower than the total New Zealand population of 17%.[4]

At the 2013 census, the largest employment industries of Chinese New Zealanders were accommodation and food services (16.0%); retail trade (13.5%); professional, scientific and technical services (11.0%); manufacturing (8.8%); and health care and social assistance (7.4%).[24]


History of Auckland Chinese Community[25]

In 2013, New Zealand-born Chinese had a lower median income (NZ$18,600) than the national average (NZ$28,500) which could be viewed as relatively low among all ethnic groups in the region; overseas-born Chinese New Zealanders had a median income close to half of the national median (NZ$15,700).[4] New Zealand-born Chinese populations are also slightly less likely to receive income from wages and salaries (46.9 percent and 57.7 percent, respectively) than the total New Zealand population, and equally as likely as the total New Zealand population to receive income from self-employment (14.7 percent and 15.4 percent, respectively). 35 percent of New Zealand-born Chinese received income from investments in 2001, which was higher than the national average of 25%. Common investments such as the traditional pension plan, stocks, bonds, and commodities such as gold and silver.[4]

Public opinion[edit]

The political party New Zealand First has frequently criticised immigration on economic, social and cultural grounds. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has on several occasions characterised the rate of Asian immigration into New Zealand as too high; in 2004, he stated: "We are being dragged into the status of an Asian colony and it is time that New Zealanders were placed first in their own country."[26] On 26 April 2005, he said: "Māori will be disturbed to know that in 17 years' time they will be outnumbered by Asians in New Zealand", an estimate disputed by Statistics New Zealand, the government's statistics bureau. Peters quickly rebutted that Statistics New Zealand has underestimated the growth-rate of the Asian community in the past.[27]

In April 2008, deputy New Zealand First leader Peter Brown drew widespread attention after voicing similar views and expressing concern at the increase in New Zealand's ethnic Asian population: "We are going to flood this country with Asian people with no idea what we are going to do with them when they come here."[28] "The matter is serious. If we continue this open door policy there is real danger we will be inundated with people who have no intention of integrating into our society. The greater the number, the greater the risk. They will form their own mini-societies to the detriment of integration and that will lead to division, friction and resentment."[29]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2018 Census totals by topic – national highlights | Stats NZ". Archived from the original on 23 September 2019. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  2. ^ "2013 Census ethnic group profiles: Chinese". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Liao, Tiffany (2007). Chinese immigrant children's first year of schooling (PDF) (Thesis). Unitec. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "2001 Census: Asian people (2001) – reference report" (PDF). Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  5. ^ Malone, C. B. "Appo Hocton". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  6. ^ "Appo Hocton, Nelson 055". Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  7. ^ "Chinese history and family history". 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  8. ^ a b c "Chinese on the Wakatipu Goldfields". Archived from the original on 22 May 2009.
  9. ^ "New Zealand's population reflects growing diversity | Stats NZ". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  10. ^ "Ethnic group (detailed total response - level 3) by age and sex, for the census usually resident population count, 2006, 2013, and 2018 Censuses (RC, TA, SA2, DHB)". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  11. ^ "Ethnic group (detailed total response - level 3) by age and sex, for the census usually resident population count, 2006, 2013, and 2018 Censuses (RC, TA, SA2, DHB)". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  12. ^ "Birthplace – 2013 Census ethnic group profiles: Chinese". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  13. ^ "2006 Census Data – QuickStats About Culture and Identity". Statistics New Zealand. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  14. ^ "QuickStats About New Zealand's Population and Dwellings: Population counts". 2006 Census. Statistics New Zealand. Archived from the original on 1 November 2009. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  15. ^ "NZ Chinese journals". 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  16. ^ 2013 Census ethnic group profiles: Chinese
  17. ^ "6. – Immigration regulation – Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand".
  18. ^ "The story of a unique WW1 soldier". Otago Daily Times Online News. 27 April 2018. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  19. ^ "Whose Country Is It Anyway?". ABC Radio National. 7 July 1996. Archived from the original on 18 June 2004.
  20. ^ "Formal apology". The Department of Internal Affairs. Archived from the original on 8 March 2004.
  21. ^ "New Zealand immigration boosted by Chinese migrants". New Zealand Visa Bureau. 19 January 2010. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  22. ^ Kavan, Heather; Wilkinson, Lois. "Dialogues with dragons: Assisting Chinese students' academic achievement" (PDF). Massey University. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  23. ^ Chung, Rita. "Educational and Achievement Aspirations of New Zealand Chinese and European Secondary School Students". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  24. ^ "2013 Census ethnic group profiles: Chinese – Labour force". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  25. ^ "History of Auckland Chinese Community – History of Auckland Chinese Community – Chinese Digital Community". Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  26. ^ "Winston Peters' memorable quotes", The Age, 18 October 2005
  27. ^ Berry, Ruth (27 April 2005). "Peter's Asian warning". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  28. ^ "Peters defends deputy's anti-Asian immigration comments", TV3, 3 April 2008
  29. ^ New Zealand Herald: "NZ First's Brown slammed for 'racist' anti-Asian remarks" 3 April 2008

Further reading[edit]

  • Li, Phoebe H. "New Chinese Immigrants to New Zealand: A PRC Dimension" (Part IV: Chinese Migration in Other Countries: Chapter 14). "A Biographical Study of Chinese Immigrants in Belgium: Strategies for Localisation." In: Zhang, Jijiao and Howard Duncan. Migration in China and Asia: Experience and Policy (Volume 10 of International Perspectives on Migration). Springer Science & Business Media, 8 April 2014. ISBN 940178759X, 9789401787598. Start p. 229.

External links[edit]