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Changes in the Chinese overseas population, 1955 to 2007.

THE LITERATURE HAS ADOPTED TWO DIFFERENT perspectives in understanding the development of Chinese overseas communities. The first one, discussed widely in studies of overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, stresses the influences of China as the homeland, and the ties of Chinese immigrants to ancestral roots. The second one, used frequently to discuss Chinese in North America, focuses on conditions of the receiving country as key to understanding the social construction of Chinese as a racialized and marginalized minority. This paper uses population data in different regions and countries to assess the efficacy of these two perspectives, and discusses how homeland influences and changing conditions of receiving societies have played different but important roles in shaping the distribution and growth of global population of Chinese overseas in the period after the Second World War.


The view of Chinese overseas communities as extensions of China has been widely adopted in studies of early settlements of Chinese in Southeast Asia (Fitzgerald 1972), and such a viewpoint influences the way the history of Chinese overseas has been conceptualized. According to this view, Chinese overseas share a similar history of migration, a common memory of the ancestral home, and a sense of solidarity that in part arises from ethnic and cultural sameness and in part, from a celebratory vision of the homeland that excels its historical and cultural richness. In short, the experiences of separation from homeland and estrangement in foreign soils reinforce ethnic solidarity. Such solidarity is instrumental in helping Chinese overseas to transplant kinship and cultural organizations as means of adaptation, and in allowing them to maintain strong ties with the homeland.

Freedman's (1958, 1979) classic studies of Chinese family and lineage in Southeast Asia and China clearly reflect the homeland influence in kinship organization in the formation of Chinese overseas communities in Southeast Asia. The theme to study Chinese overseas communities as transplantations of culture and social organization from China, albeit in modified forms, is also evident in studies of Chinese communities in many Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia (Willmott 1960), Cambodia (Willmott 1967), the Philippines (Wickberg 1965), and Thailand (Skinner 1957). Indeed, a dominant approach in the studies of Chinese overseas is to begin with China as the origin, and interpret Chinese overseas communities in terms of the degree to which they adhere to the politics, culture, kinship, or clanship organization of China (see Pan 1998). Using China as a frame of reference to study Chinese overseas also predominates the way historians of China periodize the history of Chinese overseas. A conventional approach is to construct such a history in the context of the social and economic development of China (Chen 1989) or China's trading relations with other countries (Zhuang 2001).

Historically too, China has maintained a claim of jurisdiction over Chinese all over the world. The term huaqiao, or Chinese sojourners, became popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in China. (1) By the early twentieth century, the term huaqiao had become an all-encompassing term for all Chinese overseas (Wang 1981:125). Despite the popularity of the term huaqiao since the beginning of the twentieth century, its literal meaning of Chinese sojourning overseas implies a presumptuous jurisdiction of China over all ethnic Chinese outside of China based on a loose interpretation of descent. The term is conceptually biased in treating all Chinese overseas as global subjects of China with a natural desire to eventually return to their ancestral land. The concept also imposes an expected loyalty among Chinese overseas toward China and sets them apart from their adopted countries and local communities as sojourners to maintain an ephemeral migrant lifestyle in a transient foreign country. Toward the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Qing dynasty of China adopted a policy to protect the Chinese overseas as subjects of China with a view to use them to consolidate the support for the imperial empire (Zhuang 1989).

The contending view that Chinese immigrants should be understood in their own right and in the context of the host society has gained wide support among those who break away from the historiography tradition of China, and among those who study the Chinese as a racialized and marginalized group in North America. According to this view, the materials and social conditions of the adopted country, the mode of racial incorporation of the Chinese in the local economy, and the exigencies of survival in foreign land compel Chinese immigrants to adapt and to accommodate to the local conditions, and to improvise survival strategies guided by pragmatism rather than primordialism. This view provides the basis to understand how the Chinese emerged as a racialized minority in North America, and how they survived as immigrants in a foreign land seeking to improve their livelihood, while subjected to a labor process that exploited them and to racial ideologies that marginalized them (Anderson 1991; Backhouse 1999; Li 1998; Saxton 1971; Ward 1978). In other words, the key to explaining the survival and development of Chinese overseas communities lies in the context of the local society and its rules of racial accommodation, rather than in a remote homeland or a traditional culture from which they originated (see Yancey, Ericksen, and Juliani 1976).

Among historians who study the Chinese in Southeast Asia, there are also those who share the contending view the Chinese overseas have to be understood in the context of local conditions and not extensions of China. For example, Wang (1992, 2000) argued that there were many forms of sojourning among Chinese overseas before the twentieth century. In Southeast Asia, the Chinese migrants adopted innovative ways to accommodate to the local life, including by intermarrying local women or maintaining a male bachelor society bounded by religious and other social organizations. However, in Australasia and North America, the Chinese were forced to maintain a marginal lifestyle as a result of racial discrimination and social exclusion. In other words, it would be too simplistic to attribute homeland influence as a cause of sojourning, because local conditions played a key role in determining the style of sojourning life. In the period after the Second World War, changing political scene of China under the communist rule has dashed the hope of Chinese overseas ever returning to their homeland, and at the same time, the formation of nation states in former colonies in Southeast Asia and the gaining of civil rights in Australasia, North America, and Europe have altered the conditions of accommodation for the Chinese. In many western countries, the acceptance of multiculturalism eventually opened more options for racial minorities, and the Chinese gradually gained equal rights, became upwardly mobile, and developed various forms of identity that bear different degrees of proximity to the Chinese culture, without necessarily maintaining a desire to return to their homeland or an affinity toward the political regime of China. At the same time, changes in some Southeast countries resulted in furthering marginalizing the Chinese as a racial minority who were seen by the local population as a privileged group who had overclaimed their entitlements, and the Chinese had to devise a new mode of accommodation to the inclement conditions with little hope of returning to their traditional homeland.

The foregoing debate suggests that different emphasis has been placed on homeland and local conditions in understanding the development of Chinese overseas communities in the past. In the following sections, population data on Chinese overseas in different regions and countries are used to assess how Chinese overseas communities have changed in the period after the Second World War, and how factors relating to the homeland and receiving society may have played a role in producing these changes.

In this paper, the population of Chinese overseas is defined as those ethnic Chinese who have settled outside of mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau either in their generation or in their ancestral past but claim or trace an origin from China. (2) It includes first generation Chinese immigrants who may retain the nationality of China but have settled in another country, as well as descendants of Chinese immigrants, who may have fully assimilated into the adopted country of the migrant ancestors.


The most authoritative work to date regarding the population of Chinese overseas is by Poston and Yu (1990, 1992) and Poston, Mao, and Yu (1994). The authors mainly relied on data available in official publications of Taiwan, including The China Handbook, The Statistical Abstract of the Republic of China, and The Yearbook of the Overseas Chinese Economy (Poston and Yu 1990:483). In addition, the authors supplemented the Taiwan data with census data from selected countries and other sources. Poston and Yu (1990) considered the Taiwan data to be most valuable because they were systematic and comparable over time. Essentially, the Taiwan data have been collected and updated yearly by the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission since the 1950s. For countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia where census data are readily available, the ethnic Chinese population is obtained from census materials of these countries. For countries where such information is less forthcoming or not available, the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission relies on statistics provided by Taiwan agencies and offices stationed around the world, taking into account local estimates and population figures provided by the United Nations (Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission 2008:10).

Despite the important work of Poston and Yu (1990, 1992) and Poston et al. (1994), their analysis requires two important qualifications. First, in the original analysis, Poston and Yu (1990) included population figures from Hong Kong and Macau in estimating the population of overseas Chinese. This is probably due to the fact that Hong Kong and Macau were included in the Taiwan overseas Chinese data before 1997 and 1999, respectively, before the jurisdiction of two places was officially returned to China. As noted, including Hong Kong and Macau in the calculation of population of overseas China is conceptual incorrect. The inclusion of Hong Kong and Macau overestimated the overseas Chinese population, in the magnitude of 22 percent for 1960, 1970, and 1980, and 19 percent for 1990. Second, the analysis of Poston and Yu (1990, 1992) ended in 1990, the year the latest data were available at the time of their publication. About 20 years have passed since then, and there have been important changes in the distribution of the population of Chinese overseas.

For consistency and completeness, this paper uses data on Chinese overseas as provided by the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission, Taiwan. Most of the data used for 1955 to 2007 are publicly available in publications or in the Internet. In addition, the first author was able to obtain specific data on the number of Chinese in each country outside of China for 1996 to 2001. In all the statistics used in this paper, the number of Chinese overseas has been adjusted to include only ethnic Chinese outside of mainland China and Taiwan, and not including Hang Kong and Macau.


The population of the Chinese overseas is distributed in some 130 countries outside of mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau. In the 52-year period between 1955 and 2007, the population of overseas Chinese has expanded 3.5 times, from 11 million in 1955 to 39 million in 2007 (Table 1). The increase has been steady, although some periods witnessed a faster growth than others. In the first period, from 1955 to 1980, the population multiplied 1.7 times, from 11 million in 1955 to 19 million in 1980. But in the second period, from 1980 to 2007, the population of Chinese overseas doubled.

The growth in the Chinese overseas population is not evenly distributed, with some regions experiencing a faster annual rate of increase than others. For most of the decades in the latter half of the twentieth century, the average annual percentage increase in Asia was between 1 and 2 percent (3) (Table 2). For the Americas, the growth was slowed between 1955 and 1960, around 2.5 percent annually. But between 1960 and 2000, the average annual increase was between 6 and 9 percent every year. Partly because of the small baseline number of Chinese in Europe in the 1950s, the yearly enlargement in the decades 1960 to 1970 and 1970 to 1980 was spectacular in Europe, around 23 and 17 percent, respectively. For the 52-year period between 1955 and 2007, the annual average growth was about 1.9 percent in Asia, 6.5 percent in the Americas, 8.8 percent for Europe, 5 percent for Oceania, and 3.7 percent for Africa. In all, the global ethnic Chinese population outside of China grew by 2.4 percent annually between 1955 and 2007.

As a result of the differential annual growth rates in different regions of the world in the last 50 years, there have been some important shifts in the distribution of the Chinese overseas population. Table 3 shows that before 1980, over 90 percent of the Chinese overseas population were located in Asia, with the Americas accounting for no more than 5 percent of the total population, and Europe, Oceania, and Africa collectively made up less than 2 percent. However, after 1980, there has been a steady decline in Asia's proportional share of the Chinese overseas population, from 88 percent in 1980 to 85 percent in 1990 and then to 76 percent in 2007. In contrast, the percentage share in the Americas has increased substantially, from 8 percent in 1980 to 11 percent in 1990 and 18 percent in 2007. Europe and Oceania too have assumed a rising importance in accounting for a relatively larger share of the Chinese overseas population. By 2007, Europe accounted for 2.9 percent and Oceania, 2.2 percent.

Despite the distribution of Chinese overseas population in some 130 countries, 22 countries in fact account for about 96 percent of the total population, with the remaining some 108 countries sharing the rest of the 4 percent. (4) In 2007, the number of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia was 7.7 million, accounting for almost 20 percent of the global Chinese overseas population. Thailand came second with 7.1 million ethnic Chinese, and Malaysia with 6.3 million (Table 4). Thus, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia accounted for 54.5 percent of the total Chinese overseas population in 2007. However, the proportional share of these countries has slipped slightly in the 10-year period between 1997 and 2007, from 57.5 to 54.5 percent. Two other countries in Asia also had a sizable ethnic Chinese population: about 2.7 million in Singapore and 1.2 million in Philippines. The top five countries in Asia (Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Philippines) accounted for 61.4 percent of the total Chinese overseas population, or about 85 percent of the ethnic Chinese in Asia outside of China.

In the Americas, the United States had the largest ethnic Chinese population of 3.9 million in 2007. When the Chinese population of 1.3 million in Canada is added, the two countries accounted for 13.3 percent of the total Chinese overseas population or 72 percent of all the ethnic Chinese in the Americas. In the Oceania region, Australia accounted for 1.7 percent of the total Chinese overseas population, and New Zealand, .4 percent. But the number of ethnic Chinese in Australia and New Zealand made up 94 percent of the ethnic Chinese in the Oceania region. In contrast, England, France, and Holland accounted for 57 percent of the ethnic Chinese in Europe, although globally, the ethnic Chinese in these three countries made up only about 1.7 percent of the total Chinese overseas population.

Between 1997 and 2007, highly industrialized countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and England have increased their proportional share of the total Chinese overseas population, from 13 percent in 1997 to 16.2 percent in 2007. This increase is in sharp contrast to the proportional decline in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia noted earlier.

It is clear that although Asia is still home to about three-quarters of the Chinese overseas, there has been a gradual shift from Asia to North America and to a lesser extent to Oceania and Europe. Several reasons account for this graduate shift that started after 1960. These factors have to do with the changing conditions of China as the home country of Chinese immigrants and the local conditions of accommodating the Chinese as a minority in various countries and regions in the period after the Second World War.

Historically, whereas Chinese emigration to Southeast Asia was originally prompted by China's imperial aggrandizement and trade relations with regions outside of China (Fitzgerald 1972; Reid 1998), the migration of Chinese to North American, Australia, and European countries in the latter half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century was largely triggered by industrialization of the west and the subsequent demand for Oriental laborers during times of labor shortage (Benton and Pieke 1998; Li 1998; Pan 1998). Undoubtedly, the historical trading relations between China and Southeast Asia, the proximity of Southeast Asia countries to China, and the historical influence of China's imperial court on Chinese communities in Southeast Asia resulted in China exerting substantial influence over the development and growth of Chinese overseas communities in Southeast Asia. But there were other factors related to local conditions that also affected the way by which the Chinese were incorporated into the local economy and society.

Two types of incorporation may be discerned. The first type is found in many multiracial societies of Southeast Asia in which racial features were accentuated by a history of colonization or neocolonialism, such that distinctions between races were the bases of class formation and social control, and that such distinctions remain socially significant in postcolonial developments. The second type is found in advanced industrialized societies like the United States, Canada, Australia, and England, in which "race" was used to justify economic exploitation and inequality in the early stages of industrial development but became a celebratory feature in the age of equality and multiculturalism. Suryadinata (1997:3) has referred to the first type of societies as "indigenous nations," in that they rely upon "the native ethnic groups as their frame of reference," as opposed to "immigrant nations" of the second type which use "the model of the immigrant groups" as a reference point.

The distinction between these two types of society has little to do with primordial differences, and more to do with the social construction of "race." Thus, in colonial and postcolonial societies in Southeast Asia, the Chinese became a mediating element which advanced the interests of the colonizing class, and in doing so, placed itself in a privileged and distinguishable racial position vis-a-vis the indigenous population (Mackie 1988; Suryadinata 1981, 1986, 1997). The Chinese communities in multiracial societies often have the image of an outside group which has overclaimed their economic and political entitlement by taking advantage of their middleman position during colonial times, and by maintaining their secured financial and entrepreneurial position in postcolonial periods. However, in polyethnic societies of North America that were dominated by European settlers, the Chinese in the nineteenth century became the laboring class and their superficial racial differences were used as convenient grounds for social marginalization and economic exploitation (Li 1998; Saxton 1971). The Chinese communities in North America and, to a large extent Europe and Australia, share a similar history, one that began with receiving societies seeking Oriental labor to relieve labor shortages during the industrial expansion of the nineteenth century, and one that was subsequently marred by an emergent ideology of anti-Orientialism (Anderson 1991; Backhouse 1999). These polyethnic societies adopted a similar ideological stance toward the Chinese in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Chinese were seen as culturally undesirable and racially inferior but were useful to fill some labor needs of industrialization (Clegg 1994; Li 1998; Ward 1978). In a sense, the Chinese were marginal in both types of society, but the way the marginal "space" was constructed depended on how the Chinese were racialized in each setting.

In the period after the Second World War, the ethnic Chinese in many countries in Southeast Asia continued to be viewed with suspicion by the indigenous population and local government. At the same time, the communist take-over of China since 1947 and its harsh campaign against the land-owning class in the 1950s diminished the hope of many Chinese overseas to return to their homeland one day. (5) As former colonies became independent and nationalism mounted, those ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia interested to maintain a rigorous Chinese identity were often suspected as being disloyal to the local government or sympathetic to communist elements (Wang 2000:89). For example, in Indonesia, for much of the 32-year presidency of Suharto (1967 to 1998), the Chinese were confined in many aspects of life. The Indonesian government essentially followed a policy to limit the political and social participation of Chinese and contain their economic expansion. There was a conscious effort to advance the rights and control of the indigenous people, or pribumis, and to discourage the maintenance of the Chinese language, education, and publications among the Chinese under the policy of indonesianization (Heidhues 1998:166-68; Suryadinata 1997). Even today, despite many Chinese holding Indonesian citizenship, their social status in Indonesia remain precarious. There remains a deep-seated mistrust of the Chinese by the pribumis, who see the Chinese as outsiders who, having profited from the colonial era, now maintained their economic advantage over the indigenous people. In short, the image of the Chinese is a racial minority which is opportunistic and privileged, and whose loyalty to Indonesia is questionable. In Malaysia in the period after the Second World War, there too were strong demands on the ethnic Chinese to demonstrate their loyalty to Malaysian society and to assimilate linguistically and politically (Suryadinata 1997; Wang 2000). Other countries in Asian, like Philippines during the Marcos ear (1965 to 1986) and Thailand, pursued an assimilation approach toward the ethnic Chinese by downplaying ethnic Chinese cultural features and stressing assimilation into the indigenous population (Suryadinata 1997).

In contrast, in the period after the Second World War, liberal democracy was strengthened in polyethnic societies like the United States, Canada, Australia, and England with the entrenchment of civil rights and a growing social acceptance of values of equality and multiculturalism. At the same time, many advanced industrialized countries were experiencing growing demands for professional and technical workers with the emergence of the new or information-based economy. Thus the rising skilled labor demand, coupled with demographic shifts in declining fertility and population aging, compelled countries like Canada, Australia, England, and the United States to revamp their immigration policies after the 1960s (Li 2003). As a result, Chinese immigration to these countries has been increasing toward the latter part of the twentieth century. The Chinese communities in Canada, the United States, Australia, and Europe were revived with the abolition of immigration restrictions and the arrival of fresh immigrants with a more diverse educational and occupational background. The population expansion of these Chinese communities and the changing composition of the new arrivals gradually alter the social status and occupational position of the Chinese in these polyethnic societies.

The changing political conditions of China and the difference in the way advanced industrial countries of the west and some Southeast Asian nations has been incorporating the ethnic Chinese and accepting fresh Chinese immigrants in the period after the Second World War explain why there has been a shift in the distribution of Chinese overseas population in the latter part of the twentieth century. In essence, Chinese immigration after the Second World War tended to go to the west and there has been little or no migratory flow to Southeast Asia. (6)


The literature has placed different emphasis on the homeland and destination country to explain the development of Chinese overseas community in Southeast Asia and North America, respectively. Studies of Chinese in Southeast Asia tend to stress the influence of transplanted values and organizations and the persistence of the sojourning mentality, whereas research on Chinese in North America focuses on the mode of racial incorporation and the social construction of the Chinese as a racial minority. This paper uses 50 years of population data to discuss the changes in the Chinese overseas global population in the period after the Second World War, and assesses the importance of changes in the home country and local conditions in influencing the population transition.

In 2007, about 39 million ethnic Chinese resided in about 130 countries outside of mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. There are several noted demographic features regarding this population. First, the Chinese overseas population has increased steadily since the middle of the twentieth century, from 11 million in 1955 to 19 million in 1980, and to 35 million in 2000. However, the growth has been uneven in different regions, with Asia experiencing the slowest average annual growth rate since 1955, and America and Europe, the fastest. Second, the differential growth rates result in a shift in the distribution of the Chinese overseas population. Asia, which was home to over 96 percent of the population of the Chinese overseas in the 1950s, now account for about 76 percent. In contrast, the Chinese in America that made up about 2 percent of the Chinese overseas population in 1955, now share 18 percent. Third, 22 countries account for the about 97 percent of the total Chinese overseas; population, but the proportional weight of ethnic Chinese in some populous countries in Asia has declined while the share in some highly industrialized countries has increased.

Certain factors related to changes in the politics of China and conditions of receiving society explain the relative decline in some areas and the increase in others. There were different changes in Southeast Asian countries and capitalist countries of the west and these changes affected the way the Chinese have been incorporated. Historically, in multiracial societies of Asia that had a history of colonialism or neocolonialism, the Chinese were imported as a middleman minority, but in the more nascent polyethnic societies of advanced capitalist countries of the west, Chinese of different class origins were recruited under different conditions for early industrialization and in postindustrial development. In particular, in the period after the Second World War, the Chinese in many parts of Southeast Asia were subjected to national policies that demanded loyalty to the local government and requiring them to abandon cultural ties and political attachment to China. Rising nationalism and emerging claims of indigenous rights in many former colonies of Southeast Asia also tended to marginalize the ethnic Chinese. At the same time, the establishment of communist rule in China after 1947 and the initial harsh treatment toward the property-owning class deterred the return of Chinese overseas to their home country, and dashed their hope of doing so in the future.

In contrast, in advanced industrial countries of the west, the period after the Second World War saw the entrenchment of civil rights and recognition of values of equality and multiculturalism. These changes, together with the demand for skilled labor, resulted in countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, England, and other European countries revamping the immigration law to enable fresh immigrants of Chinese origin entering these countries. Consequently, there has been a surge of Chinese immigration to these countries toward the latter part of the twentieth century.

These forces suggest that the key factor in influencing the changing distribution of Chinese overseas population in the period after the Second World War has to do with different conditions of racial incorporation in the receiving society. The influence of China as a home country in shaping the distribution of Chinese overseas population has been small, except for the fact that the change of politics in China in 1947 undermined the sojourning way of life and forced many Chinese overseas to seek ways of accommodating to their adopted country without the hope of returning to their ancestral land.

There are additional implications for the study of immigrant groups and racial minority in a country like Canada. Rather than treating the Chinese either as a transplanted cultural entity shaped by homeland traditions and politics or as an amorphous transnational collectivity sustained by ethnic connections and cultural ties, this study emphasizes the importance of considering the future growth of the Chinese community in the context of Canada and its policy of accommodation. Despite the relevance of considering cultural origin and primordial roots in understanding the development of minority immigrants, the conditions of Canada as a receiving society and its openness in incorporating racial minorities probably influence more the future flow of immigration than the politics of the sending country.


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University of Saskatchewan

This paper is based on research supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Prairie Metropolis Centre. The authors would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers and the editor for their constructive comments.

Peter S. Li, Department of Sociology, University of Saskatchewan, 9 Campus Dr., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada SK S7N 5A5. E-mail:

(1.) According to Zhuang (1989:46), the term huaqiao first appeared in 1883 in a document written by Zheng Guanying to the high ranking Chinese official Li Hongzhang. However, in the official archives of the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911) before the twentieth century, the term huaqiao was rarely used. More commonly used were terms like huamin (Chinese people), huaren (Chinese) to refer to Chinese subjects settled outside of China; also used were huagong and huashang to refer to Chinese workers and Chinese merchants, respectively (Zhuang 1989).

(2.) It should be noted that it is also incorrect to refer to Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau as overseas Chinese or parts of the overseas Chinese community, notwithstanding the fact that marked political, economic, and ideological differences exist between these areas and mainland China. Indeed, China has officially adopted the term and the policy of "one China, two systems" to recognize the differences between Hong Kong and mainland China, while upholding the principle of national sovereignty.

(3.) The formula for calculating the annual percent population increase between a beginning period and an ending period is as follows:

(r x 100) [[([P.sub.t]/[P.sub.0]).sup.1/y] - 1] x 100

where [P.sub.0] is the population at the beginning of the period; [P.sub.t] the population at the end of the period; y the number of years in the period; r the average annual rate of growth; and (r x 100) the average annual percent growth.

(4.) Based on the electronic data files for 1996 and 2001, the number of countries reported by the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission varies from 125 to 130. In 2001, the number of countries listed with an entry of overseas Chinese is 130.

(5.) As Chinese outside of China settled in their adopted country and acquired its citizenship in many countries in the period after the Second World War, and as the People's Republic of China officially abandoned the position of using race or blood relations to define Chinese nationals in 1955 (Zhou et al. 1993:277), the historical notion of treating Chinese overseas as essentially subjects of China becomes untenable.

(6.) The available data on the global distribution of Chinese overseas do not permit decomposing the growth rate of different regions into finer demographic components of natural increase and net migration. But for North America, population increases in the Chinese community after the Second War World came mainly from new immigration. For example, in Canada between 1971 and 1991, the population of Chinese Canadians increased about four times from 124,600 to 492,333, but about 94 percent of the increase can be attributed to immigration (Li 1998).
Table 1
Chinese Overseas Population by Region, 1955 to 2007


Year      Asia       America      Europe    Oceania    Africa

1955    11,074,000     266,000      14,000    69,000    33,000
1960    10,904,000     301,000      14,000    74,000    40,000
1970    14,147,000     711,000     112,000    69,000    59,000
1980    17,100,000   1,558,000     525,000   105,000    75,000
1990    21,588,000   2,663,000     589,000   356,000    99,000
2000    27,363,000   5,959,000     955,000   631,000   137,000
2007    29,561,000   7,157,000   1,144,000   868,000   219,000

Year      Total

1955    11,456,000
1960    11,333,000
1970    15,098,000
1980    19,363,000
1990    25,295,000
2000    35,045,000
2007    38,948,000

Figures for 1955 to 2007, selected years, are based on statistics
from the 2007 Statistical Yearbook of the Overseas Compatriot
Affairs Commission (Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission 2008).
Figures before 2000) have been adjusted by subtracting the
population of Hong Kong and Macau from Asia and the total. The
population of Hong Kong and the population of Macau were not
reported after 1997 and 1999,  respectively, in the original

Table 2
Average Annual Percentage Growth of Chinese Overseas
Population 1955 to 2007

Period      Asia   America   Europe   Oceania   Africa   Total

1955-1960   -0.3     2.5       0.0       1.4      3.9     -0.2
1960-1970    2.6     9.0      23.1      -0.7      4.0      2.9
1970-1980    1.9     8.2      16.7       4.3      2.4      2.5
1980-1990    2.4     5.5       1.2      13.0      2.8      2.7
1990-2000    2.4     8.4       5.0       5.9      3.3      3.3
2000-2007    1.1     2.7       2.6       4.7      6.9      1.5
1955-2007    1.9     6.5       8.8       5.0      3.7      2.4
1960-2007    2.1     7.0       9.8       5.4      3.7      2.7

Source: Calculated from Table 1.

Table 3
Percentage Distribution of Chinese Overseas Population by
Region, 1955 to 2007


Year     Asia   America   Europe   Oceania   Africa   Total


1955     96.7      2.3      0.1      0.6       0.3    100.0
1960     96.2      2.7      0.1      0.7       0.4    100.0
1970     93.7      4.7      0.7      0.5       0.4    100.0
1980     88.3      8.0      2.7      0.5       0.4    100.0
1990     85.3     10.5      2.3      1.4       0.4    100.0
2000     78.1     17.0      2.7      1.8       0.4    100.0
2007     75.9     18.4      2.9      2.2       0.6    100.0

Calculated from Tables 1 and 2.

Table 4
Population of Chinese Oversea in Top 22 Countries, 1997 and 2007

                                  1997                  2007

Countries                     N          %          N          %

Indonesia                 7,310,000    21.99    7,776,000    19.97
Thailand                  6,358,000    19.13    7,123,000    18.29
Malaysia                  5,445,100    16.38    6,324,000    16.24
United States             2,597,000     7.81    3,858,000     9.91
Singapore                 2,311,300     6.95    2,687,000     6.90
Philippines               1,030,000     3.10    1,170,000     3.00
Russia                    1,000,283     3.01      500,000     1.28
Vietnam                   1,145,850     3.45    1,309,000     3.36
Burma                       959,100     2.89    1,121,000     2.88
Canada                    1,001,000     3.01    1,318,000     3.38
Peru                        540,150     1.63    1,300,000     3.34
Australia                   372,000     1.12      670,000     1.72
Cambodia                    300,000     0.90      355,000     0.91
England                     250,000     0.75      312,000     0.80
France                      225,000     0.68      233,000     0.60
Japan                       234,264     0.70      607,000     1.56
India                       167,777     0.50      196,000     0.50
Laos                        160,000     0.48      190,000     0.49
Brazil                      127,700     0.38      156,000     0.40
Holland                     127,500     0.38      110,000     0.28
New Zealand                 111,308     0.33      148,000     0.38
South Africa                 31,000     0.09      108,000     0.28

Total (22 countries)     31,804,332    95.69   37,571,000    96.46
Total (all countries)    33,238,000   100.00   38,948,000   100.00

Figures for 1997 are based on electronic data provided by
Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission, Taiwan; 2002 Statistical
Yearbook of the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission, Overseas
Compatriot Affairs Commission, Taiwan, 2003; and 2007 Statistical
Yearbook of the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission, Overseas
Compatriot Affairs Commission, Taiwan, 2008.
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Author:Li, Peter S.; Li, Eva Xiaoling
Publication:Canadian Review of Sociology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:May 1, 2011
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