Rance Carter

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Glen Peterson Research Group: Chinese Diaspora

Can anyone claim to be purely from where he is?

          Diaspora was not only in the old ages. The Jews were not only the ones who were dispensed from Judea and the Greeks were not only the ones who flee after the fall of Constantinople and warnings of new stricter government. The world has been evolving for a long time and people have not only remained in their home lands during those times.

The Chinese diaspora is long established in many countries, sometimes dating back to the 19th century, or much earlier in south-east Asia. It is often very diverse, combining several-generation settlers from Hong Kong and southern China with a large wave of new migrants, many poor and illegal; growing numbers of students; and those connected with China's burgeoning overseas economic interests, who are especially to be found in the countries around its borders. It is estimated that there are now at least half a million Chinese living in Africa, most of whom have arrived very recently. There are more than 7 million Chinese in each of Indonesia (with over a quarter of them living in the country’s capital, Jakarta), Malaysia and Thailand, more than 1 million each in Burma and Russia, 1.3 million in Peru, 3.3 million in the US, 700,000 in Australia and 400,000 in this country - about 40 million in all, which is almost certainly a considerable underestimate.

In a book written by University of British Columbia history teacher, Glen Peterson, “Overseas Chinese in the People’s Republic of China”, he emphasizes a sweeping yet fine-grained account of Chinese across the world. Peterson’s Group of researchers have been writing and studying the expansion of Chinese migrants for years while the growing population had driven Chinese to try other countries. In almost every country in the world, there is a China Town, proving the domination of these nationalities.

In a book review, Peterson stresses the importance of the Cold War global context in shaping PRC policies towards overseas Chinese, accounting for the seemingly contradictory relationship between the government and its diasporic subjects. Eagerness for valuable economic and political alliances with Southeast Asian states led the PRC to encourage ethnic Chinese abroad to adopt local citizenship. This policy of apparent disengagement by China from its own emigrants was primarily to allay foreign governments’ fears of Communist infiltration. At the same time, the PRC could not afford to give up access to overseas Chinese capital, expertise, and trade networks while facing the threat of US-led attempts at economic isolation. The domestic overseas Chinese thus became a vital bridge for sustaining and amplifying these connections.


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