Peoples of China

Global Snapshots

A Look at the Chinese Diaspora around the World


The Chinese population in Japan has increased four-fold since 2000. Today, one-third of all foreigners and two-thirds of all foreign students are Chinese. The Japanese government is promoting Global 30 to accept 300,000 foreign students by 2020. The door to Chinese students is wide open. On the other hand, Chinese professors come to teach at various universities. Many trainees also come to learn from Japan. Tourists as well as business people from China benefit the Japanese economy. Most Chinese people stay in large cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka; however, they can also be found throughout Japan. Many of them are wealthier than previously; yet, some are still struggling to survive in one of the most developed and highest priced countries of the world. Young Chinese couples leave their small children and babies in their homeland with their parents so that they can work hard and save much money. The number of international marriages between Japanese and Chinese is also growing.

This situation shows us that God is sending Chinese people to Japan, a country with religious freedom but with less than one percent of the population Christian. How is God reaching out to this new Chinese diaspora? A Chinese-Canadian couple joined a Japanese church to lead its Chinese congregation. Since there are many universities in the area, many Chinese students live near the church. A Korean missionary started his ministry for Chinese in a Korean church. He adopted a cell group style since it helps in training young Christians to learn how to start a house church when they go back to their homeland. In Osaka, a Japanese pastor takes care of Chinese students as he works with an NGO. This lets him show them the love of Christ, and makes it easy for him to communicate Christ to them. Several Christians and missionaries, who have a burden for the diaspora ministry, are trying to reach out to foreign students including the Chinese. Their strategy is to focus on the market place. In a suburb of Tokyo, a Chinese Christian lady, who is a member of a Japanese church, opened an empty apartment unit in a building she has to Chinese wives, who are married to Japanese husbands, for a Bible study. A young pastor is sent to this group by a Chinese church. Not only are Chinese churches and Christians reaching out to the Chinese diaspora, but the ministry is also now being carried out with the cooperation of the non-Chinese church in Japan. This is the time to call for the other boat in order to strengthen the net to catch plenty of Chinese friends in Japan. (See Luke 5:6-7)

Jonathan Yasuki Tsutada works in Japan with the Chinese population.


Less than a decade ago, Vancouver had only a handful of Mandarin speaking congregations or churches. Today, close to seventy percent of Chinese churches are Mandarin speaking or have some sort of Mandarin ministries. Most of these churches have been established as a result of a significant influx of immigrants from Mainland China in recent years. According to Dr. Peter S. Li, Professor of Sociology of the University of Saskatchewan, the number of immigrants from Mainland China continued to climb from the late 90s until it reached forty-two thousand in 2005, and this growth has been steadily maintained annually. Though usually only thirty-five to forty percent of these immigrants ended up residing in Vancouver, they have already made a significant impact on churches as well as the community at large.

Many of these Chinese find themselves going to church not long after their arrival; some go because of different services that churches provide such as ESL classes and childrens programs, but some go because they were already believers back in China, and they want to look for a new spiritual home. The need for Mandarin-speaking ministry has rapidly and dramatically increased as a result. While Cantonese-speaking congregations are aging and shrinking, suddenly new opportunities are showing up at our doorstep. Just as the Chinese word for crisis (weiji) consists of both danger and opportunity, issues like pressure on resources and tensions from cultural differences are creating both challenges and dangers for churches that are endeavoring to reach out to these Mainland Chinese. However, my church can testify that this is a God-sent opportunity. We started a Mandarin worship service in 2006 with about twenty people, half of which were mission-minded Cantonese-speaking members who had originally emigrated from Hong Kong. Today, our Mandarin worship attendance is over one hundred and sixty and continues to grow.

Paul Chiu is a local church pastor in Vancouver.

New Zealand

The past two decades have seen large numbers of mainland Chinese moving to beautiful New Zealand. Auckland, the largest city, is the most popular destination for both students and longer term immigrants. It is home to perhaps 80% of NZs 200,000 Chinese.

International students in NZ come from over 100 nationsthe largest group being Chinese. Several students from China attend the multi-cultural church where my wife and I serve on Aucklands NorthShore. In addition to university students, pupils are coming for primary or high school, often accompanied by one of their parents.

Concerning longer term immigrants, there are two main categoriesinvesting immigrants () and skilled immigrants (). Those coming as investors clearly need to be very wealthy to qualify. In some cases, the wife and children remain in NZ while the husband spends most of his time in China or elsewhere engaged in business. It is a far from ideal kind of family life. The bulk of immigrants however come as skilled professionals who have to settle down and make a living. In todays tough economic climate this is not easy. Some are very successfulI can think of a couple of engineers and an architect. Many, however, find that they cannot so easily transfer their China skills and experience to the new country. For example, James, who was a medical doctor in China, gave up trying to get local qualifications (because of his limited English) and now runs a lawn mowing company. Many immigrants face similar problems. Despite their training and expertise, it is not easy getting into local Kiwi companiesas a lawyer, engineer, artist, teacher, university professor or manager. There are cultural as well as language hurdles to overcome.

However, Chinese immigrants are gifted people. With hard work and ingenuity they begin to find a niche for themselves. For example, in Auckland many are making a very significant contribution to the building industry. Our church has been engaged in a major building extension and we have been able to use Chinese builders, plumbers and gas fitters, water-proofers, electricians, painters, furniture makers, roofers, carpet layers and so on.

It is common for immigrants to bring their retired parents over to New Zealandfor short-term visits, often to help with children. While some parents prefer to return to China (where there is more to do (), more friends, more independence, no language problems, etc.), many do choose to settle. This is a whole group of people needing to be reached.

Making a living is not always easy for recent immigrants. Many work long hourssometimes seven days a weekand money often becomes a snare. Marriage and family problems are all-too-common.

Praise the LordChinese immigrants, young and old, are being reached for Christ. Chinese churches (of which there are about 60 in Auckland) and multi-cultural churches, like our own, are seeing many come to faith. Many of these new believers had had no contact with the Gospel in China. One young immigrant, who my wife led to Christ several years ago, is now involved with another Chinese sister in producing an excellent monthly gospel newspaper in Chinese. Morning Star is widely read even by non-Christian Chinese. There are also major outreach events such as the recent meetings with evangelist, Yuan Zhiming, supported by a team that included Canaan Hymns song writer Xiao Min. Over 4500 attended the two nights of evangelistic meetings and two hundred responded to the Gospel.

All this is still but a drop in the bucket for there are many more as yet unreached.

Peter Anderson served in Hong Kong and China for 29 years and currently pastorsthe Mairangi Bay Community Church in Auckland, New Zealand,a multi-cultural congregation that is 68% Chinese.


YJI and MLI, who are married and in their late 40s, come from Fujian and grew up in a coastal town making salt. When it became difficult to make a living, they decide to strike out overseas like many in their village. They went to Nigeria in 2005 and now have a retail store that sells men and womens shoes, handbags and perfume.

Since coming to Nigeria, they have not made any friends. The competition for business is so fierce that usually no one talks to another Chinese or helps another Chinese for another persons gain is ones own loss. There is a small Chinese Christian fellowship of about six which YJI regularly attends since she is a Christian. However, she does not see the other Chinese, small business owners in the fellowship as friends. Everyone is very guarded about their lives. One time she was so sick she was laid up in bed for a week and did not talk to anyone, nor did anyone inquire as to why she was not seen for a week or about her well being.

YJI had only a couple of years of elementary school and her husband has only a middle school education. They did not speak English when they first arrived. They are without legal identity, so every month, they are forced to make payoffs to various groupspolice, immigration, order not to be jailed and deported. Even with those payments, MLI has been arrested three times by immigration; only more bribes kept him out of jail.

Since YJI is a Christian, she wants to tell others about Jesus, but MLI is not, and so she has a hard time. She feels inadequate because she does not know the Bible and how to answer objections. Daily devotions are difficult because she is not able to read. Another shopkeeper, who is a Buddhist, sometimes argues with her about which religion is better. He says that Christians are not better protected; they are still arrested, get sick, die and so on. She does not know how to answer him.

Currently this couple is looked after by an African pastor who does not speak Mandarin so he cannot minister nor communicate with them or other Chinese. In reality, they do not go to him when they have a question for communication is impossible. All this absolutely illustrates the need for a proper Chinese-speaking pastor to be sent who can work from the Bible in teaching and setting up a structure to ensure that disciples are made. More trained workers are needed in Africa!

Mr. Nehemiah works with the Chinese Diaspora in Africa.

South Africa

All those from Fujian that I know, are shopkeepers (selling clothes and/or groceries) and came here to “make money.” They say there is no way they can make money where they come from. (Most living here are from Fujian province with a few from Beijing and Shanghai.)

Most of the time, the head of the family comes first, and after some time, the wife and then the children follow. The grandchildren are born here, and when they are about one year old, they are sent back to Mainland China to live with their grandparents. Some of the adults would love to return to their birthplace, but they feel that they have not made enough money yet. Many live illegally in their shops which they rent. Even if they rent a house, there is usually more than one family living together in the small dwelling. Each entire family, consisting of husband, wife and at least one child, share a bedroom.

People from Beijing and Shanghai tend to be very different; they are the educated and work in banks or possess IT businesses. Most of them are men who are on contract for two to three years. They have wives and family back in the Mainland. Some of them return once every three months for a visit.

Ina has been working with Chinese in South Africa for nearly two years.

United Kingdom

Twice a week our volunteers pick-up Chinese so they can come to our English classes to practice their English. We offer English classes for visiting Chinese who represent a very specific groupvisiting scholars and academics who have been sent to the UK to do research in their area of expertise. They are truly high-flyers in the academic world. While their academic English is good, they long to practice casual conversation, and so they greatly value our conversation classes. They also use the time to ask cultural questions.

Most are communist party members and atheists, but many arrive with a curiosity about Christianity and hunger in their hearts. They are offered a Bible study with colleagues in the city and a good number take that opportunity. Some become believers and return to China knowing Christ. Others return to China, not believing, but with a new view of Christians. And then there are those that return not yet believing, but they come to faith after they return. We see examples of all of these.

These visiting scholars are usually only here for six months or a year, so our window of opportunity to build a relationship is small. However, we have a good group of local, British, Christian volunteers who help with this. In addition, it is essential, whenever possible, to link the returning believers with Christians back in China.

Mary and Mike have been working with Chinese in the United Kingdom for a number of years.

There are several married, Chinese women who have been in our city for ten years or more, have obtained postgraduate degrees, have jobs in academia and bought houses. They have professed faith in Christ, but are still on the edge of things church-wise. None of their husbands are Christians. In the same church, there are many Chinese students who are actively engaged in a Mandarin-speaking home fellowship and in evangelistic and other Christian activities. The first group of women, being more settled with husbands, children and busy professional lives, do not fit in well with the younger students.

These women exist in a kind of twilight zone. They have British citizenship or permanent residency, but they also have family in China, and a degree of uncertainty about continued employment in the UK. I sense these couples are constantly weighing the pros and cons of staying or returning. One lady lives in the UK while her husband lives in China; they each make one or two visits a year.

All are generous friends to the local Christians they have known the longest; however, I dont think they feel part of the family. One or two of us who know them best continue to pray and try different ways of helping each of them belong.

Emily has been working with Chinese students in a United Kingdom university city for fifteen years.

Image Credit: Chinese New Year by suzienewshoes, on Flickr

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