Contemporary Chinese Community in PNG: Old Chinese v. New Migrants

By Emmanuel Narokobi

A good brother of mine in Rabaul emailed me this paper today. And if you must know he is PNG Chinese, so I’m keen to hear his thoughts on the whole new Chinese migrants issue. Its not a secret thought that its been a growing debate over the last 10 years especially. At times its also hard to tell whether its it’s a racial fear, a cultural fear, a political fear or an economic fear that fuels the debate. But I think moreover it is an economic issue, but you can have a read for yourself to decide.

The paper was written by a James Chin who was Chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Papua New Guinea in the late 1990s. He is now Head of the Faculty of Arts and Social Science at Monash University’s Malaysian campus.

Below are some excerpts from his Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies, Volume Two, 2008:

“For the purpose of this paper, ethnic Chinese are categorized into two broad categories. The first is the ‘old’ Chinese. This group is fairly easy to identify. They are essentially the descendents of the first immigrants from mainland China who lived through the process of colonization and who tend to share some common traits. As mentioned, they are almost all Christians and use English as their first language. Most of them also traced their homes to Rabaul and, if they can afford it, send their children to study in Australia (mostly to Queensland and New South Wales).4 Most of them were Koumintang (KMT) supporters until the 1960s when they became more neutral after they realized that the KMT had no prospects of ever regaining control of the mainland.
When Australia gave independence to PNG in 1975, they were given a choice of taking up either Australian or PNG citizenship. The bulk of them left for Australia. Those who stayed behind began to expand their businesses beyond Rabual, and today they control much of the ‘national’ wholesale trade.5……Turning to the ‘new’ Chinese, I have categorized them into two groups. The first contains Southeast Asian Chinese, comprising mostly ethnic Chinese from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.6 The second are the mainland Chinese and Taiwanese.”

“Some Observations on the New Chinese
The first point to make is that they are probably the biggest beneficiary of the sell-off by Europeans (white) business after the dramatic fall in value of the kina in the late 1990s.
As proprietors sought to leave the country, many such businesses were sold up quickly, with owners keen to transfer their money out before the kina fell further. The people willing to pay upfront and take over the businesses were usually the new Chinese.”

*Download the Paper Here

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2 thoughts on “Contemporary Chinese Community in PNG: Old Chinese v. New Migrants

  1. Bro, very interesting read that gives a good understanding of the chinese community in PNG. I somewhat agree that the PNG-born Chinese don’t really like the new wave of Chinese coming in as they are not really for the long term development of the country but to make quick bucks, siphon the profits and get out…

    It is also interesting that the PNG-Chinese are increasingly considering their future outside of PNG e.g. Aust.

    Considering PNG as a country that it takes forever and costly to conduct business, I admire the Chinese apetite for risk in doing business.

    A very interesting scholarly article from someone of Malaysian Chinese origin…btw, Dr. Chin was my lecturer in international relations at UPNG

  2. I was just going to write a post about this Emmanuel : ) I read the paper last week.

    Definitely recommend to anybody who is interested in PNG – Chin published a very valid piece of analysis.

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