Overseas Chinese

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Overseas Chinese
Map of the Chinese Diaspora in the World.svg
Total population
50 million[1][2][3] (2018)
Regions with significant populations
 Thailand9,300,000 (includes ancestry)[3][4]
 United States4,143,982[7]
 Singapore2,570,000 (ancestry only)[note 1]
451,481 (nationality)[note 2][8][9]
 South Korea1,070,566[15]
 United Kingdom466,000[19]
 South Africa300,000–400,000[23]
 New Zealand270,100[25]
 United Arab Emirates180,000[29]
Related ethnic groups
Chinese people

Overseas Chinese (Chinese: 海外华人; pinyin: Hǎiwài Huárén) often refers to people of Chinese ancestry abroad or Chinese nationals who reside outside China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.[33]


Huáqiáo (simplified Chinese: 华侨; traditional Chinese: 華僑) or Hoan-kheh (Chinese: 番客; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Hoan-kheh) in Hokkien, refers to people of Chinese citizenship residing outside of either the PRC or ROC (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.[34]

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.[35]

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.[36][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.[37] Another often-used term is 海外華人 (Hǎiwài Huárén) or simply 華人/华人 (Huárén) in Mandarin. 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).

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, Hokchew, Hokkien, Hakka or Teochew refer to themselves as 唐人 (Tángrén), pronounced Tòhng yàn in Cantonese, Toung ning in Hokchew, 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, Hokchew, 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, California, United States, the Chinese emigrants, mainly from the Pearl River Delta west of Canton, called it Tang People Street (Chinese: 唐人街; pinyin: Tángrén Jiē)[38][39]: 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.[39]: 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.[36] For example, members of the Tibetan people may travel to China on passes granted to certain people of Chinese descent.[40] Various estimates of the Chinese emigrant minority population include 3.1 million (1993),[41] 3.4 million (2004),[42] 5.7 million (2001, 2010),[43][44] or approximately one tenth of all Chinese emigrants (2006, 2011).[45][46] 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.[36]

Some ethnic groups who have historic connections with China, like the Hmong may not themselves identify as Chinese.[47]


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[edit]

Chinatown in Little Burke Street, Melbourne, Australia
Main sources 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.[48] 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.[37] 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.
Cho Huan Lai Memorial
Sandakan Massacre Memorial
Memorials dedicated to Overseas Chinese who perished in northern Borneo (present-day Sabah, Malaysia) during 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.[49]

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.

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

Republic of China[edit]

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 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) 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.[50][51]

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 II[edit]

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.[52][53] 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 was evidence that some intended to reclaim mainland China from the CCP by funding the Kuomintang.[54][55]

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 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre 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.[56]

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.[57] An estimated 15,000 to 30,000 Chinese live in Austria.[58]

Chinese emigrant (Overseas Chinese) experience[edit]

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

Commercial success[edit]

Chinese emigrants are estimated to control US$2 trillion in liquid assets and have considerable amounts of wealth to stimulate economic power in China.[59][60] The Chinese business community of Southeast Asia, known as the bamboo network, has a prominent role in the region's private sectors.[61][62]

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.[63]


Hakka people in a wedding in East Timor, 2006

Overseas Chinese communities 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).

Chinese (Sangley) in the Philippines, (1590) via Boxer Codex
Sangleys, of different religion and social classes, as depicted in the Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica de las Yslas Filipinas (1734)
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 times to the Spanish colonial period and American colonial era, where many have largely intermarried with both indigenous native 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.[64] Under Spanish colonial policy of christianization, assimilation and intermarriage, their christianized colonial mixed descendants with both the indigenous native Filipinos and Spanish Filipinos, known as the Mestizos de Sangley and Tornatras respectively, would eventually form the bulk of the colonial middle-class in the later centuries of Spanish colonial Philippines. The emergence of the Mestizo class would later rise to the noble Principalia class and illustrado intelligentsia of the late spanish colonial era, which later carried over and fueled the elite ruling classes of the American-era Philippines and later sovereign independent Philippines. Since the 1860s to the 20th century, the remaining unmixed Sangley along with the later subsequent Chinese immigrants, mostly also coming from Southern Fujian particularly Quanzhou and Xiamen, would later form the bulk of the contemporary unmixed and mixed Chinese Filipinos (Filipinos of Chinese ancestry), who their families mostly previously attained Philippine citizenship through their Sangley forebears and associated migrant relatives or local family clan associations associated with those. Older generations of Chinese Filipinos have retained Chinese traditions and the use of Philippine Hokkien (Min Nan), while the current majority of younger generations largely communicate in English and Filipino (Tagalog) or other Philippine languages (e.g. Cebuano Bisaya) and have largely layered facets of both Westernized/Americanized Filipino culture and traditional Filipino culture onto their Chinese cultural background. In modern times today, Chinese Filipinos play a considerable role in the economy of the Philippines[65][66][67][68] and the Mestizo Filipino descendants of the Mestizo de Sangley (Chinese Mestizos) compose a considerable part of the Philippine population especially its bourgeois,[68] where according to National Geographic's Genographic Project, 36% of the genomic ancestry of the average Filipino is said to be from Eastern Asia, associated with migrants from China and Taiwan who expanded south.[69]

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.

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.[17]

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.[70] 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".[71] 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.[72] During the colonial era, some genocides killed tens of thousands of Chinese.[73][74][75][76]

During the Indonesian killings of 1965–66, in which more than 500,000 people died,[77] 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.[78][79] 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.[80]

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][81] 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.[82] 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.[83] In 2006, rioters damaged shops owned by Chinese-Tongans in Nukuʻalofa.[84] Chinese migrants were evacuated from the riot-torn Solomon Islands.[85]

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.[86]

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 both the United States and Canada required further acts to full remove immigration restrictions (US by acts in 1952 and 1965, whereas in Canada in)

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[87] similar to that given to the 'stolen generations' of indigenous people in 2007 by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Relationship with China[edit]

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[edit]

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).[88]

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[edit]

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.[89]

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.[90]

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.[91][92]

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.[93]

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.[94]


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,[95][96][97][98] with the largest metropolitan Chinese population outside Asia,[99] The New York metropolitan area contains the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia, comprising an estimated 893,697 uniracial individuals as of 2017.[100]

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.[101][102]

Country statistics[edit]

There are over 50 million overseas Chinese.[1][103][2] Most of them are living in Southeast Asia where they make up a majority of the population of Singapore (75%)[a] and significant minority populations in Malaysia (23%), Thailand (14%) and Brunei (10%).

Visualization of overseas Chinese populations by country
Continent / country Articles Overseas Chinese Population Percentage Year of data Partial Chinese Ancestry
Africa 700 000
 South Africa Chinese South Africans 300,000–400,000 <1% 2015[23]
 Madagascar Chinese people in Madagascar 100,000 2011[104]
 Zambia Chinese people in Zambia 80,000 2019[105]
 Ethiopia Chinese people in Ethiopia 60,000 2016[106][107]
 Angola Chinese people in Angola 50,000 2017[108]
 Nigeria Chinese people in Nigeria 40,000 2017[109]
 Mauritius Sino-Mauritian 38,500 3% 2010[110]
 Algeria Chinese people in Algeria 35,000 2009[111]
 Tanzania Chinese people in Tanzania 30,000 2013[112]
 Réunion Chinois 25,000 1999[113]
 Republic of Congo Chinese people in the Republic of Congo 20,000 2013
 Mozambique Ethnic Chinese in Mozambique 12,000 2007[114]
 Zimbabwe Chinese people in Zimbabwe 10,000 2017[115]
 Egypt Chinese people in Egypt 6,000–10,000 2007[116]
 Sudan Chinese people in the Sudan 5,000–10,000 2005–2007[116]
 Ghana Chinese people in Ghana 7,000 2010
 Kenya Chinese people in Kenya 7,000 2013[117]
 Uganda Chinese people in Uganda 7,000 2010[118]
 Botswana Chinese people in Botswana 5,000–6,000 2009[119]
 Lesotho Chinese people in Lesotho 5,000 2011[120]
 Democratic Republic of Congo Chinese people in the DRC 4,000–5,000 2015[121]
 Cameroon Chinese people in Cameroon 3,000–5,000 2012[122]
 Guinea Chinese people in Guinea 5,000 2012[122]
 Namibia Chinese people in Namibia 130,000–140, 000 2009[citation needed]
 Benin Chinese people in Benin 4,000 2007[116]
 Ivory Coast Chinese people in Ivory Coast 3,000 2012[122]
 Mali Chinese people in Mali 3,000 2014[123]
 Togo Chinese people in Togo 3,000 2007[116]
 Cape Verde Chinese people in Cape Verde 2,300 <1% 2008[124]
 Malawi Chinese people in Malawi 2,000 2007[116]
 Rwanda Chinese people in Rwanda 1,000–2,000 2011[125]
 Senegal Chinese people in Senegal 1,500 2012[122]
 Morocco Chinese people in Morocco 1,200 2004[126]
 Seychelles Sino-Seychellois 1,000 1999[127]
 Liberia Chinese people in Liberia 600 2006[116]
 Burkina Faso Chinese people in Burkina Faso 500 2012[122]
 Libya Chinese people in Libya 300 2014[128]
Asia/Middle East 29 000 000
 Thailand Thai Chinese, Peranakan 9,300,000 14% 2015[129]
 Malaysia Malaysian Chinese, Peranakan 6,642,000 23% 2015[130]
 Indonesia Chinese Indonesian, Peranakan 2,832,510 (Totok Chinese)

6,500,000 (Peranakan Chinese)

1.2% (Official)

3.5% (Estimation)

2010[131] 7,000,000
 Singapore Chinese Singaporean, Peranakan
Chinese nationals in Singapore
2,571,000 (Chinese Singaporeans)
451,481 (Chinese nationals)
76.2% (Official)
No percentage available
 Myanmar Burmese Chinese, Panthay 1,637,540 3% 2012[11]
 Philippines Chinese Filipino, Tornatras, Sangley 1,146,250–1,400,000 1.5% 2013[132] 27,000,000 Mestizos/Mixed
 South Korea Chinese in South Korea 1,070,566 2.1% 2018[15]
 Japan Chinese in Japan 922,000 <1% 2017[16]
 Vietnam Hoa people 749,466 <1% 2019[17]
 Cambodia Chinese Cambodian 343,855 2.2% 2014[133] 700,000
 Laos Laotian Chinese 185,765 1% 2005[134]
 United Arab Emirates Chinese people in the United Arab Emirates 180,000 2.2% 2009[135]
 Pakistan Chinese people in Pakistan 60,000 2018[136]
 Brunei Ethnic Chinese in Brunei 42,100 10.3% 2015[137]
 Israel Chinese people in Israel 10,000 2010[138]
 North Korea Chinese in North Korea 10,000 2009[139]
 India Chinese in India 9,000–85,000 (including Tibetan) 2018[28]
 Mongolia Ethnic Chinese in Mongolia 8,688 <1% 2010[citation needed]
 Bangladesh 7,500
 Qatar 6,000 2014[140]
 Sri Lanka Chinese people in Sri Lanka 3,500 <1%?[141]
 Kazakhstan Chinese in Kazakhstan 3,424 2009[142]
 Iran Chinese people in Iran 3,000 <1%
 Kyrgyzstan Chinese people in Kyrgyzstan 1,813 2009[143]
   Nepal 1,344 2001[citation needed]
Europe 2 230 000
 France Chinese French 600,000 1% 2018[144]
 United Kingdom British Chinese 433,150 <1% 2011
 Russia Chinese people in Russia 28,943 <1% 2010[145]
 Italy Chinese people in Italy 288,923 <1% 2020[22]
 Spain Chinese people in Spain 197,390 <1% 2020[26]
 Germany Chinese people in Germany 145,610 <1% 2020[146]
 Netherlands Chinese people in the Netherlands 94,000 <1% 2018[147]
 Sweden Chinese people in Sweden 38,626 2020[148]
 Portugal Chinese people in Portugal 27,839[149] <1% 2019
 Belgium Chinese people in Belgium 20,866 2018[citation needed]
  Switzerland -- 19,712 <1% 2019[150]
 Ireland Chinese people in Ireland 19,447 0.4% 2016[151]
 Hungary -- 18,851 2018[citation needed]
 Austria -- 16,331 <1% 2015[152]
 Denmark Chinese people in Denmark 15,103 2020[citation needed]
 Norway -- 13,350 2020[citation needed]
 Turkey Chinese people in Turkey, Uyghurs 12,426–60,000 (including Uyghur) 2015[citation needed]
 Finland -- 10,040 2018[citation needed]
 Poland 8,656 2019[citation needed]}
 Czech Republic Chinese people in the Czech Republic 7,485 2018[citation needed]
 Romania Chinese of Romania 5,000 2017[citation needed]
 Luxembourg 4,000 2020[153]
 Slovakia 2,346 2016[citation needed]
 Ukraine 2,213 2001[citation needed]
 Greece 2,200 2017[154]
 Serbia Chinese people in Serbia 1,373 2011[155]
 Bulgaria Chinese people in Bulgaria 1,236 2015[citation needed]
 Iceland -- 686 2019[citation needed]
 Estonia -- 104 <1% 2013[156]
Americas 8 215 000
 United States Chinese American, American-born Chinese 5,025,817 1.5% 2017[157]
 Canada Chinese Canadian, Canadian-born Chinese 1,769,195 5.1% 2016[158][159]
 Brazil Chinese Brazilian 250,000 2017[134]
 Argentina Chinese people in Argentina 120,000 <1% 2016[160] 200,000[160]
 Panama Chinese people in Panama 80,000 2% 2018[161] 200,000
 Mexico Chinese immigration to Mexico 24,489 <1% 2019[162] 70,000
 Peru Chinese-Peruvian 14,223 2017[163] 1,200,000
 Chile Chinese people in Chile 17,021 <1% 2017[164] 20,000
 Venezuela Chinese Venezuelans 15,358 2011[citation needed] 400,000
 Dominican Republic Ethnic Chinese in the Dominican Republic 15,000 2017[165] 60,000
 Nicaragua Chinese people in Nicaragua 12,000 --[166]
 Costa Rica Chinese people in Costa Rica 9,170 2011[167][circular reference] 45,000
 Suriname Chinese-Surinamese 7,885 1.5% 2012[168]
 Jamaica Chinese Jamaicans 5,228 2011[citation needed] 75,000
 Trinidad & Tobago Chinese Trinidadian and Tobagonian 3,984 2011[citation needed]
 Guyana Chinese Guyanese 2,377 2012[citation needed]
 Colombia 2,176 2017[169] 25,000
 Belize Ethnic Chinese in Belize 1,716 <1% 2000[170]
 Cuba Chinese Cuban 1,300 2008[171] 114,240
Oceania 1 500 000
 Australia Chinese Australian 1,213,903 5.6% 2016[172][173]
 New Zealand Chinese New Zealander 270,100 5.5% 2019[174]
 Papua New Guinea Chinese people in Papua New Guinea 20,000 2008[175][176]
 Fiji Chinese in Fiji 8,000 2012[177]
 Tonga Chinese in Tonga 3,000 2001[178][179]
 Palau Chinese in Palau 1,030 2012[180]
 Samoa Chinese in Samoa 620 2015[181][circular reference] 30,000

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This number excludes Chinese nationals residing in Singapore, only Singaporean citizens of Chinese ancestry.
  2. ^ This number includes only Chinese nationals residing in Singapore.
  1. ^ This number excludes the population of Chinese nationals living in Singapore.


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Further reading[edit]

  • Barabantseva, Elena. Overseas Chinese, Ethnic Minorities and Nationalism: De-centering China, Oxon/New York: Routledge, 2011.
  • Brauner, Susana, and Rayén Torres. "Identity Diversity among Chinese Immigrants and Their Descendants in Buenos Aires." in Migrants, Refugees, and Asylum Seekers in Latin America (Brill, 2020) pp. 291–308.
  • Chin, Ung Ho. The Chinese of South East Asia (London: Minority Rights Group, 2000). ISBN 1-897693-28-1
  • Chuah, Swee Hoon, et al. "Is there a spirit of overseas Chinese capitalism?." Small Business Economics 47.4 (2016): 1095-1118 online
  • Fitzgerald, John. Big White Lie: Chinese Australians in White Australia, (UNSW Press, Sydney, 2007). ISBN 978-0-86840-870-5
  • Gambe, Annabelle R. (2000). Overseas Chinese Entrepreneurship and Capitalist Development in Southeast Asia (illustrated ed.). LIT Verlag Münster. ISBN 978-3825843861. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  • Kuhn, Philip A. Chinese Among Others: Emigration in Modern Times, (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).
  • Le, Anh Sy Huy. "The Studies of Chinese Diasporas in Colonial Southeast Asia: Theories, Concepts, and Histories." China and Asia 1.2 (2019): 225-263.
  • López-Calvo, Ignacio. Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture, Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 2008. ISBN 0-8130-3240-7
  • Ngai, Mae. The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics (2021), Mid 19c in California, Australia and South Africa excerpt
  • Ngai, Pun, and Jenny Chan. "Global capital, the state, and Chinese workers: The Foxconn experience." Modern China 38.4 (2012): 383-410. online
  • Pan, Lynn. The Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseas, (Harvard University press, 1998). ISBN 981-4155-90-X
  • Reid, Anthony; Alilunas-Rodgers, Kristine, eds. (1996). Sojourners and Settlers: Histories of Southeast China and the Chinese. Contributor Kristine Alilunas-Rodgers (illustrated, reprint ed.). University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0824824464. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  • Sai, Siew-Min. "Mandarin lessons: modernity, colonialism and Chinese cultural nationalism in the Dutch East Indies, c. 1900s." Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 17.3 (2016): 375-394. online Archived 27 June 2021 at the Wayback Machine
  • Sai, Siew-Min. "Dressing Up Subjecthood: Straits Chinese, the Queue, and Contested Citizenship in Colonial Singapore." Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 47.3 (2019): 446-473. online Archived 27 June 2021 at the Wayback Machine
  • Tan, Chee-Beng. Chinese Overseas: Comparative Cultural Issues, Hong Kong University Press, 2004.
  • Taylor, Jeremy E. ""Not a Particularly Happy Expression":"Malayanization" and the China Threat in Britain's Late-Colonial Southeast Asian Territories." Journal of Asian Studies 78.4 (2019): 789-808. online
  • Van Dongen, Els, and Hong Liu. "The Chinese in Southeast Asia." in Routledge Handbook of Asian Migrations (2018). online

External links[edit]