Project Description

Beijing: China’s Attitude Towards Overseas Chinese

China has traditionally regarded itself as the center of all the world’s civilization. As a consequence, it has tended to frown upon citizens that choose to leave the ‘Middle Kingdom’ for foreign, supposedly barbaric countries. Overseas Chinese were often regarded as traitors, hurting China’s pride. On the other hand, China’s pragmatic side has been forced to recognize that millions of overseas Chinese have acquired money, skills, and resources abroad, all of which are potentially useful for the country’s own development.


overseas chinese in 1890


These conflicting views meant that, over the centuries, China’s attitude towards overseas Chinese has shifted back and forth from (modest) support to willful neglect. Typically, this shifting attitude can be linked to China’s own confidence and strength, as is shown in the table below (OCN = overseas Chinese).


China’s Strength

China’s Attitude towards OCN

OCN’s Attitude towards China

1680-1842: Strong Qing empireEmigration was prohibited; China neglected or was indifferent to OCNForced self-sufficiency, independent commercial success abroad
1842-1949: Century of HumiliationChina recognized or supported OCN in exchange for investment and loyaltySupported the nationalist Chinese cause from abroad
1949-1976: Mao era of strength & promiseEmigration was prohibited; China again neglected or was indifferent to OCNForced self-sufficiency, political localization in emigrant destination
1978-Present: Opening and growthChinese at home and abroad are ‘one family’ again; Chinese economy needs OCN’s skills and investmentAttracted by China’s growth, but dismayed by political system


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