Chinese migration to Singapore: Discourses and discontents in a globalising nation-state

Brenda Yeoh, Weiqiang Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Changing economic realities in the last decade have seen the People’s Republic of China (PRC) emerging as a major source of ‘new’ migrants in the world. In the context of Southeast Asia as ‘destination,’ inflows from the PRC take on another level of significance given the historical antecedents. In this article, we take Singapore, a Southeast Asian global city-state, as a case study of how Chinese migration histories and circumstances have evolved through time. While colonialism has left the city-state with a large ethnic Chinese population that persists till today, Singapore’s present-day aspirations to become a globally oriented, open economy have led to a new round of transnational migration, where PRC nationals feature prominently. Focusing on the streams of people moving from China to Singapore in the past and present, a comprehensive range of developments surrounding the said mobilities will be examined. These include a short historical account of Singapore’s, and more generally Southeast Asia’s, longstanding exchange with China; regulatory regimes that govern Singapore’s immigration policies today; the typologies and varied characteristics of modern Chinese migrants gracing the city-state’s doorsteps; and social tensions arising from these contemporary PRC flows into Singapore sitting uncomfortably between being predominantly ‘Chinese’ and ‘anti-Chinese.’ A few reflections follow as a means to conclude this paper.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-54
Number of pages24
JournalAsian and Pacific Migration Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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