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  • The Rise of China, New Immigrants and Changing Policies on Chinese Overseas:Impact on the Philippines
  • Teresita Ang See (bio) and Carmelea Ang See (bio)

The year 2018 marked forty years since the economic reforms in China were ushered in by Deng Xiaopeng. China and the overseas Chinese community commemorated the anniversary with conferences, forums, exhibits and other celebratory activities worldwide to share China's achievements and the phenomenal success of its economic reforms and developmental model.

China's rise to become the world's second-biggest economy has benefitted both the Philippines and the region. For the Philippines, China's capital (through loans or grants) and expertise in building infrastructure and boosting agricultural production would be key in stimulating Philippine economic growth and development. This has also been accompanied by new migration patterns and business overtures to the Philippines, especially under the Belt and Road Initiative. The past decade has seen a sharp rise in the number of new immigrants from China, particularly in the past two years since the election of President Rodrigo R. Duterte in 2016. They continue to pour into the Philippines, some seeking residency legally through investment and retirement visas or special working permits.

The presence of the new Chinese immigrants has caused some tensions and complications in the Philippines, especially among the local ethnic Chinese community. The Chinese-Filipinos, or Tsinoys, sometimes find themselves embroiled in the popular discontent against China and Chinese immigrants. This [End Page 275] is further complicated by China's recent outreach efforts to the Chinese diaspora, which has been characterized by a relative lack of careful consideration about the distinction between Chinese nationals abroad and foreign nationals of ethnic Chinese descent.

The first section of this chapter will discuss the state-to-state relationship between China and the Philippines, especially the burgeoning cooperation in infrastructural developments in the Philippines. It will also describe why Chinese-backed projects have not been popularly received in the Philippines, although sometimes through no fault of China. The second section will cover the contemporary wave of Chinese immigrants into the Philippines as well as highlight the tensions and problems associated with the migrants. The third section will explore the recent policies of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Bureau, which risks alienating many citizens of Southeast Asia who are of Chinese descent, including those in the Philippines.

China and the Philippines

Although the Philippines established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China on 9 June 1975, it remained the bastion of Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT) influence, with the ethnic Chinese community in the Philippines being largely pro-Taiwan, at least up to 1999.1 From 1945 to 1975, Chinese schools and community organizations in the Philippines were supervised by the Taiwan-KMT embassy. One such organization was the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII), which only switched its sympathy in 1999 with an official visit of Chinese-Filipino businessmen to China.

The establishment of diplomatic relations in 1975 was, however, still significant, since it occurred with the recognition that the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia were not a separate sovereign group owing allegiance to a Chinese motherland, but rather an ethnic minority who would have to determine their political future in concert with the indigenous counterparts in their respective countries.2 This meant that China had to dispel the belief that it was exploiting the overseas Chinese community for its own political purposes and against the interests of their countries of residence, in part to neutralize hostility towards overseas Chinese.3 As Wang Gungwu wrote, the situation was such that it "was no longer acceptable for Southeast Asian Chinese in the new nation-states to hang on to the status of being temporarily resident in their adopted country", and neither was it acceptable "for the governments in Beijing and Taipei to continue calling them huaqiao or sojourners".4 [End Page 276]

In September 1954, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai acknowledged this so-called "overseas Chinese problem" in his remarks during the 1st National People's Congress (NPC). For the first time, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had to weigh the usefulness of demanding the loyalties of the overseas Chinese against...


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