The Impact of Chinese Immigrants on Local Society

Becoming Japanese?

The longer Chinese migrants remain in Japan, the more likely they are to apply for permanent residency. From 1984 to 1990, the number of permanent residents among Chinese nationals in Japan increased by a mere 1520, from 22,757 to 24,277. However, this figure has climbed rapidly since then. In 2006 it exceeded 100,000, with 117,329 Chinese migrants granted permanent residency. By 2014 it had reached 232,025. The number of Chinese spouses of Japanese nationals and permanent residents has also continued to grow. By the end of 2014, the number of Huaqiao (overseas Chinese) and their families reached 314,425. This is almost seven times as high as Japan’s total population of Chinese nationals in 1974 (46,944).

In 2014, 9277 foreigners were granted Japanese citizenship, among them 3060 Chinese (33 %). Between 1978 and 2014, 111,681 Chinese were naturalized (27 % of all naturalized foreign nationals). The number of naturalized Chinese started to rise quickly at the beginning of the 1990s, and then stabilized in the 2000s (see Fig. 7.4). However, it fell dramatically

Naturalization of the Chinese in Japan, 1978-2014 (Source

Fig. 7.4 Naturalization of the Chinese in Japan, 1978-2014 (Source: Japanese Ministry of Justice)

after the Kanto earthquake in 2011. In the 25 years from 1952 to 1977, only 20,692 Chinese migrants were naturalized (Guo 1999: 76). The number of naturalized newcomers is much higher. However, in Australia, 73 % of Chinese migrants have naturalized and become Australian citizens, so the Japanese figure is low by comparison (Shao 2013). Most Chinese in Japan choose to remain Chinese nationals. This phenomenon is unique to the Chinese. It can be explained by Japan’s opposition to immigration, the history of war between Japan and China, and Chinese people’s negative feelings about Japan. In Japan, one may get citizenship without first getting permanent residency. There, loyalty is highly prized and Japanese people believe that a foreigner who lives in Japan as a permanent resident remains a foreigner until they become naturalized. For the Japanese, the naturalization of migrants is preferable to granting them permanent resident status.

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