China’s policies on Chinese overseas

Past and present

Authored by: Zhuang Guotu

Routledge Handbook of the Chinese Diaspora

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415600569
eBook ISBN: 9780203100387
Adobe ISBN: 9781136230967


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Until the late Qing period (1840s to 1911), the Chinese governments’ policies toward Chinese overseas were basically an aspect of their policies toward overseas trade. From the Qin to the Yuan dynasties (221 BC to 1368 AD), the Chinese governments had normally not interfered with private overseas trade. Some Chinese maritime merchants and sailors even settled down abroad. Because the number was very limited, they had been largely neglected by the Chinese governments. Based on China’s advanced handicraft industry and shipbuilding, higher navigation technology and abundant commodities for export, the Chinese merchants who replaced the Muslim merchants that were active between East Asia and the Indian Ocean, played a leading role in the East Asia maritime trade from the thirteenth century onwards. When the Chinese merchants spread all over the trading ports in East Asia, they established their trade bases, resulting in the emergence of permanent Chinese settlements. Toward the end of the fourteenth century, several large Chinese communities were formed in Java, Sumatra and other ports in Southeast Asia, each of which had several thousands of Chinese people (Zhuang 2001: 53–5).

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