Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Overseas Chinese -Part I...海外华裔华侨...世界の中国系、華僑たち..

This post is another 'Year of China' 2010 themed series post. This time, I shall be introducing readers to the array of Chinese communities residing overseas.

In the first part, we shall be dealing with Southeast Asian Chinese, the biggest overseas Chinese community by historical length as well as overall numbers.

First off, this is an old table from Wikipedia on the rough statistical numbers of Chinese people residing around the world. (Please note the numbers are outdated given that I know for a fact that Taiwan now has 23 million people already and Malaysian Chinese number roughly over 7 million currently.)

Rough Estimate of Total Global Chinese Population:
1,310,158,851 19.73% of global human population(estimate)

Regions with significant populations:

Majority populations:
People's Republic of China
Hong Kong
Republic of China (Taiwan)
Minority populations
United States
United Kingdom
New Zealand
South Korea

As you can see, in Southeast Asia, in terms of percentage-wise, Singapore has a Chinese-majority population, making it the only country in the world to have so, besides China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan which are in the 'Chinese sphere'.

The country with the second largest Chinese percentage population is Malaysia (where I am from), 24-25% of the total population. Then comes Thailand which has around 11% Chinese population and then Vietnam and the Philippines which each have roughly 1.5% Chinese population. Of cos, in terms of absolute numbers, Indonesia has the largest overseas Chinese population, being over 7.5 million strong. But in terms of percentage-wise (which is the most important factor to measure), they only make up less than 2% of Indonesia's total population.

However, due to very low rates of intermarriage between Chinese-Indonesians and Malay-Indonesians, the Indonesian-Chinese have retained more of their Chinese customs and culture as well as sense of identity as compared to Thai-Chinese, whom despite making up 11% of the population, and possibly even higher if Thai-Chinese mixed bloods were counted in (some say that up to half of all Thais can trace back their lineage to some Chinese blood!) have become so assimilated through the highest rate of intermarriage in South East Asia between Chinese and Thais as well general cultural assimilation that Thai-Chinese have in general less Chinese identity and culture as compared to Indonesian-Chinese or even Filipino-Chinese.

The Chinese in Southeast Asia are on the whole economically more empowered as compared to the indigenous population, and this is true be it in Thailand to Malaysia, Singapore to Indonesia.
For some reason, the Southeast Asian Chinese are overall much wealthier and form the bulk of the economic elite as well as hold a disproportionate percentage of the country's economy all across Southeast Asia. Therefore, if you looked at the richest list of Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, etc for example, the Chinese tend to make up at the very least half of that list despite only proportionately being only 2%-24% of the population.

Furthermore, even societies where the Chinese have assimilated in better, the Chinese also make up a disproportionate percetange of the political ruling class as well as the entertaiment industry as idols to be emulated. For instance, in Thailand and the Philippines, the political elite are disproportionately represented by those with Chinese blood. I only knew about this after doing some research. In Thailand, it was reported that during the time of Thaksin (the former Thai PM whom also had Chinese blood in him, apparently being of half Hakka descent) seven out of the ten cabinet ministers had some Chinese blood in them. Even currently, the current Thai PM Abhisit has Chinese blood in him as well, coming from a wealthy Thai-Chinese family. The opposition leaders also apparently all have at least some Chinese ancestry as well! Furthermore, out of the top 10 Thai banks, i heard 7 are owned by Thai-Chinese with many being Hakka (despite Thailand having a Teochew majority).

In the Philippines, the National Father Jose Rizal also had Chinese ancestry in him and many famous Filipino actors and actresses have Chinese blood in them. In fact, when i first fell in love with Filipino entertainment, I was really taken aback at the number of Chinese-looking faces (most are mixed Filipino-Chinese)...examples are too many to count, Kris Aquino, Angel Locsin, Christian Bautista, Dennis Trillio, Toni Gonzaga, Kim Chiu,etc. In fact, many I don't even have to check up on their background as they simply look too Chinese and especially when I see sometimes their family members being interviewed on TV, some of whom look even more Chinese, its obvious they have some Chinese blood in them, even if a couple of generations back.

This was the case with Thai stars as well, with Tik Jesadaporn and Ken coming to mind as well as Ice Saranyu...they look so Chinese..Tik's brother looks like a Singaporean-Chinese and Ken looks like he could have easily come from HK!

Besides holding economic power as well as political and entertainment power in some countries, the Chinese in Southeast Asia have also influenced the food of many Southeast Asian cuisines deeply which I found deeply interesting. For example, did you know that Southeast Asia didn't have noodles in the past?! I didn't know that until this past year or so, when I discovered through some initial research that noodles was introduced to Southeast Asia by the Chinese immigrants meaning that countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines did not have noodles in their cuisines before the arrival of the Chinese. So, dishes like pad thai, mee goreng, pansit, were directly brought in by the Chinese. Furthermore, other quintissential dishes like nasi goreng indonesia and teh tarik were also introduced by the Chinese but transformed and adapted to local conditions over time. How cool is that?!

Even famous dishes such as adobo in Philippines must have been influenced by the Chinese given that a key ingredient in that is soy sauce, which is a Chinese invention and used widely throughout all Southeast Asian, and indeed East Asian countries. Other food such as tofu which is used in Southeast Asian cuisine would also have been introduced by the Chinese given that tofu was also invented by the Chinese. The fact that you can find some common dishes in some SEA countries also indicates they may well have been brought in by the Chinese, dishes such as Bee Koh Mui (Black sticky rice in Coconut) which is found in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines as well as Tikoy which is again found in all the above countries and all have similar sounding names, being the Hokkien name, given that the majority of Chinese in Southeast Asia are Hokkien people, and NOT Cantonese people, contrary to popular belief.

Interesting facts hey?


UnkaLeong said...

Interesting facts on the Chinese Diaspora :)

hcpen said...

Unkaleong: ya:-)