The Chinese diaspora at a time of reform and transformation
The article analyzes the evolution of Beijing’s policy towards the Chinese diaspora starting with the announcement of the policy of „four modernizations” in 1978. The „Cultural Revolution” led to a discontinuation of the relationship between the Chinese state and Chinese residents abroad. The dramatic economic situation on the eve of the country’s wide-ranging reforms induced a radical change in the official line of the government’s policy towards the overseas Chinese. The main architect of this alteration was Deng Xiaoping, who soon after taking over the helm of power began to rehabilitate overseas Chinese and their families living in China (guiqiao qiaojuan). Beijing expected that this policy shift would cause an influx of cash from abroad in the form of remittances, and later - in the form of direct investments. These assumptions proved to be correct, as in the next twenty years the sum of money that was released from the Chinese diaspora to China laid the foundations for the economic boom in the Middle Kingdom.
In 1980 the first Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were launched in the provinces of Guangdong and Fujian, as these areas were historically considered to have the highest number of links with overseas Chinese in South-East Asia. Initially the whole production of SEZs was only for export, which consequently allowed China to become the world biggest exporter in 2010.
In addition to activities in the economic field Beijing gradually liberalized the right to leave and return in order to facilitate a possible return of the most entrepreneurial migrants. In the face of devastation caused by the „Cultural Revolution” in the education system the government multiplied efforts to encourage students to go abroad and earn degrees from foreign universities. This initiative was directed at gaining a qualified cadre. As a result, in 2004, China took first place in the world in terms of the number of students studying abroad.
With the opening of China to the world the population of the Chinese diaspora grew from 22 to nearly 35 million in the years 1985–2000. This was largely due to all those Chinese who went overseas after 1978. The governmental documents call them xin yimin. Their emigration and settlement in different countries is accompanied by a renaissance of patriotic feelings among the „old” Chinese overseas, which in turn gives rise to the development of Chinese overseas associations. In recent years, the Chinese government has been stressing the importance it attaches to cooperation with these organizations, greatly increasing the financial support provided to them.