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Blurring the Distinction between Huaqiao and Huaren: China's Changing Policy towards the Chinese Overseas

from THE REGION

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 January 2018

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Summary

In 2015 there were two important events regarding Beijing's policy towards the Chinese overseas. One was the World Overseas Chinese Businessmen and Industrialists Conference in Beijing and the other was the announcement of the Huayi Card, specially designed for foreign citizens of Chinese descent working and residing in China. These events clearly manifest Beijing's “new policy” towards the Chinese overseas. Nevertheless, when examined closely, this policy change can be seen to have taken place much earlier, as reflected in previous events.

This chapter examines both the World Overseas Chinese Businessmen and Industrialists Conference and the Huayi Card, and the new policy's impact on the Chinese overseas, with special reference to Southeast Asia. It also explains when and why Beijing began to change its policy towards the Chinese overseas.

Clear Distinction between Huaqiao and Huaren

Beijing's policy towards Chinese overseas has been changing. During the Deng Xiaoping period, the distinction between huaqiao (华侨 Chinese citizens overseas) and huaren (华人 foreign citizens of Chinese descent) was quite clear.

After the resurgence of Deng Xiaoping, China promulgated the first PRC Citizenship (Nationality) Law in 1980, that stipulates that China only recognizes single citizenship. Once a Chinese overseas becomes the citizen of another country voluntarily, he or she ceases to be a citizen of the People's Republic of China. The clear distinction between Chinese nationals and foreigners resolved the historical problem of dual nationality of the Chinese overseas.

Nevertheless, with the modernization of China and globalization, there have been waves of new Chinese migrations, known as xin yimin. But the destinations of the new migrants have been developed countries (especially in the West) rather than the developing countries of Southeast Asia (except Singapore). These new migrants proposed that China should revive the dual nationality policy for ethnic Chinese, as such was being practised in the West. The proposal was debated by the China's People's Consultative Body, but the 1980 Chinese Nationality Law remained unamended. Apparently the Chinese government felt the present citizenship law served Beijing's national interests well.

The most striking example of the distinction between China's nationals and foreigners can be seen in Beijing's attitude towards the anti–ethnic Chinese riots that took place in Indonesia in May 1998, which affected many Chinese Indonesians.

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Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2017

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