“We Still Don't Like You but We Want Your Money”: The Case of Chinese Migration to Australia

“We Still Don't Like You but We Want Your Money”: The Case of Chinese Migration to Australia

Mona Chung (Deakin University, Australia) and Bruno Mascitelli (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9273-0.ch073


The history of Chinese migration goes back nearly as long as colonial settlement. The first major wave, which brought a noticeable number of Chinese to Australia, was the gold rush. Although the Chinese were the first non-British migrants they were heavily discriminated and looked down upon. Under the ‘White Australia Policy', it was guaranteed that the Chinese would not become in any real way, part of the Australian population. Yet despite all these difficulties, by 2010-2011 Chinese migrants became the largest migrant group in Australia. This change is significant as it was a turning point in Australia's demographic makeup (Armillei & Mascitelli, 2016). This paper examines the phenomenon of Chinese migration into Australia and how it evolved from the early years of discrimination to more recent years when the Chinese are seen in more economic opportunist forms. The true motivations of the Australian authorities for opening up to the Chinese are indeed questionable which can aptly be summarised as “we may still not like you but we want your money”.
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Australia from its outset was country of migration be it colonial or otherwise. The historic waves of migration have been in line with the formation and development of this country. Much of the early migration to Australia involved British colonial people movement both in the form of British, free settlers as well as convicts and petty criminals (Migration Heritage Centre 2017). Non-British settlement and migration on the other hand has however generally been a source of curiosity and even controversy.

Chinese settlement in Australia has evolved from being tightly controlled migration in the early times (enshrined through the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901), popularly known as the White Australian Policy, which effectively banned Asian migration for the next fifty years, through to more modern times whereby Chinese migration is amongst the top sources of migration to Australia. Highlighted by the last decade of strong economic engagement between China and Australia, the very relationship between these two nations have almost turned full circle. As Collins noted: “For most of its history Australia attempted to exclude Asians from Australian life, in the last decade Asia and Asians have played a greater role in Australian society that at any time in its history” (Collins, 1995, pp. 378). Today China is Australia’s largest trading partner, has a strategic Free Trade Agreement and challenges the US for Asian regional security leadership. The purpose of this paper is to ascertain the changes in Australia’s approach towards the Chinese and how these changes have gone from initially being discriminatory to a business approach towards migration. In addition, this paper will seek to highlight the manner in which, different from the past, Chinese migrants have sought out Australia as a new destination and home from the 1990s until today.

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