New Chinese Immigration to New Zealand: Policies, Immigration Patterns, Mobility and Perception

Liangni Sally Liu Introduction

In the New Zealand context, large-scale Chinese immigration started very recently. The country’s immigrant selection was based on racial preference until 1986 when a major immigration policy review was enforced (Ip 1995; Trlin 1992). The 1986 Immigration Policy Reviews that abolished the traditional source-country preference (such as the Great Britain) and proclaimed a liberal philosophy of selecting immigrants based on “criteria of personal merit without discrimination on grounds of race, national or ethnic origin” (Burke 1986: 11) resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of new Chinese migrants to the country (Ip 1995).1 The new policy was further refined by the introduction of a points-based system in 1991, which accentuated the human-capital factor of recruiting talent and economic investment (Trlin 1997). These changes brought in a large influx of new Chinese migrants. Of the new Chinese intake, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC2) are the three main contributing sources (Ho 2003).

L.S. Liu (*)

Massey University, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand © The Author(s) 2017

M. Zhou (ed.), Contemporary Chinese Diasporas, DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-5595-9_11

Top 16 countries of origin for New Zealand permanent residents, 1987-2015

Fig. 11.1 Top 16 countries of origin for New Zealand permanent residents, 1987-2015

Immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan started arriving in the early 1990s, but PRC immigrants started coming in significant numbers at a later date (Ip 2006b; Liu 2011). Most started to arrive in the mid-1990s, and their numbers increased rapidly in the late 1990s, making the PRC a major immigrant source for New Zealand. The PRC became the second largest source country for New Zealand in 1997 and it has remained the second- largest source for residence approvals in New Zealand (94,859), just after the Great Britain (149,969) (see Fig. 11.1).

Given the significance of the PRC’s migrant population in New Zealand, it is important to study this new Chinese immigration. Much attention has been given to the Chinese diaspora in other traditional immigration-based “New World” countries whose geopolitical and economic positioning in the world migration system is much more visible and is closer to the center of global politics. Although new Chinese migrants in New Zealand contribute greatly to the global Chinese diaspora population, this group has often been overlooked in Chinese diaspora studies. This chapter sets out to remedy this gap. It focuses on the changing patterns of immigration, routes and transnational mobility in the context of New Zealand’s changing immigration policy and the geopolitical positioning of both China and New Zealand in the global system. It distinguishes PRC migrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan Chinese migrants because the latter two groups differ from PRC Chinese in terms of time of arrival, migration incentives and patterns, and demographic structure.

Studying new Chinese immigration in the New Zealand context has far-reaching implications for Chinese diaspora studies. New Zealand is more likely a destination for short-term or mid-term immigration settlement than it is for long-term settlement (Bedford etal.2000).To study new Chinese migrants to this traditional “land of immigration” that is geographically far away from the world center and Asia can help us understand the changing themes, patterns and circulation of the contemporary Chinese diaspora in a changing world migration hierarchy.

I first provide a brief historical overview of early Chinese immigration to New Zealand. I then contextualize the new wave of PRC immigration against the background of New Zealand’s changing immigration policy after 1986 and China’s economic and social transformation. The transformation of China after the early 1990s speeded the new Chinese immigration wave. This second section addresses how policy and the social, political and economic environment of both immigrant-receiving and immigrantsending countries conditioned new Chinese immigration. I focus on immigration policy in New Zealand and its impact on the volume of this inflow. The third section focuses on the immigration categories under which PRC migrants arrive. Other immigrant groups will be used as benchmarks to show the distinct pattern of PRC migrants. The fourth section looks at the general profile of the PRC migrant population in New Zealand and their settlement, indicated by participation in the labor market. The last section touches on the transnational migration and mobility of PRC migrants, a theme of research on new Chinese immigration everywhere. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how new Chinese migrants are perceived by the host society, especially Maoris.

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