Chinese Diaspora Worldwide – the Evolution of a Phenomenon
This article aims to outline the characteristics of the evolution of Chinese diaspora/emigration over the centuries and to introduce the key terms currently existing in the literature. The author tries to outline the basic differences between terms such as huaqiao, huaren, huayi, haiwai huaren and jingwai huaren, and to illustrate how the evolution of terminology reflected the changes in state policy towards overseas Chinese. The paper also presents the factors that determined the scale and direction of emigration from the Middle Kingdom from the legendary eastbound travels by sea at the time of the first Chinese emperor Qin Shihuang, through the period when Chinese workers (coolies) were being caught and sold by the Westerners in the nineteenth century, until the recent newspaper headlines reporting on the tragic consequences of smuggling Chinese people to Western Europe and the United States.
Particular attention was paid to the description of the multidimensional transformation to which the Chinese diaspora/emigration was subject in the twentieth century. Its turning point was the year 1979 when – after 30 years of an almost complete ban on leaving the PRC – the door for emigration was reopened. The author – following the trends in the scientific literature on contemporary overseas Chinese – makes a distinction between “old” (before 1979) and “new migrants” (after 1979) from China and points out the crucial differences between them.
The article ends with reflections on the future of the Chinese citizens/ foreigners of Chinese descent living outside China in the context of Beijing’s current policy, which – since the 1990s – is increasingly seeking to win the favor of the overseas Chinese in order to broaden the global sphere of China’s economic and cultural influence.