On October 9, 2020, at the invitation of the School of Social Development, Nanjing Normal University, Mr. Zhuang Guotu, the distinguished professor of Xiamen University, gave a lecture entitled "The Characteristics of Overseas Chinese Society in the 21st Century" in Conference Room 117, Building 600, Suiyuan Campus, Nanjing Normal University. The lecture was hosted by Professor Qi Chunfeng, Dean of the School of Social Development. Some scholars, cadres of overseas Chinese affairs from National University of Defense Technology, Nanjing Tech University, Nanjing University of Finance and Economics, Jiangsu Province Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, and some teachers and students from School of Social Development, Nanjing Normal University attended the lecture.
Professor Zhuang Guotu first cited "the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on overseas Chinese society and their relations with China" as an introduction, and talked about the lack of correct understanding of overseas Chinese society in China, which caused them to be unfairly treated during the COVID-19 epidemic. Professor Zhuang Guotu mainly discussed the three characteristics of the overseas Chinese society in the 21st century.
The first characteristic is that the number of overseas Chinese has increased sharply, spread all over the world, and come from a wide range of sources. Professor Zhuang Guotu first intuitively and vividly showed us the changes in the number of overseas Chinese in the world from AD 1600 to 2017 in the form of a table. From about 150,000 at the beginning to more than 58 million in AD 2017, it is conservatively estimated that it may already be Reached 60 million people. Then Professor Zhuang Guotu introduced some characteristics of the overseas Chinese society from the 1950s to the present. In the 1950s, more than 90% of overseas Chinese were concentrated in Southeast Asia, and their occupational structure was dominated by laborers, craftsmen and small traders. From 1950s to 1980s, due to various domestic and foreign restrictions, China’s large-scale overseas immigration was basically interrupted. Since 1980s, the prominent feature of mainland China’s immigrants has been the rapid increase in the number and proportion of overseas Chinese in developed countries. Among them, the number of overseas Chinese in the United States had increased the most, and overseas Chinese in South Korea and Japan had the fastest growth.
The second characteristic is that the economic strength of overseas Chinese has increased sharply and they are generally engaged in industry and commerce. Professor Zhuang Guotu said that in 2008, the assets of Chinese businessmen in Southeast Asia had reached US$155.1 billion, which was equivalent to 35% of China’s total GDP that year. Professor Zhuang Guotu emphasized that we cannot ignore the existence of small and medium-sized Chinese businessmen. They are the main body of overseas Chinese businessmen. Professor Zhuang Guotu further analyzed the reasons for the growth of the strength of Chinese businessmen, which can be summarized in five points: the first is the diligence and thrift of the Chinese, the second is their passion for industry and commerce, the third is the relatively high level of education of the Chinese, and the fourth is the Chinese businessmen and the mainland China’s increasingly close economic and trade cooperation, the fifth is a large number of wealthy immigrants from China having greatly enhanced the strength of local Chinese businessmen.
The third characteristic is that the degree of overseas Chinese social organization, the cohesion and relations with China of the overseas Chinese have been continuously strengthened. Professor Zhuang Guotu mentioned that after entering the 21st century, overseas Chinese associations have not only increased rapidly in number and spread more widely, but their functions have also undergone major changes. The development and changes of associations have not only strengthened the degree of social organization of overseas Chinese, but also promoted them. The connections between Chinese communities around the world have further strengthened the centripetal force of overseas Chinese communities towards China. Professor Zhuang Guotu introduced to us the characteristics of Jiangsu Overseas Chamber of Commerce in the 21st century based on local reality, and mentioned that with the development of economic globalization, the vertical and horizontal union of associations and organizations has initially taken shape after entering the 21st century. At the same time, Professor Zhuang Guotu told us that since the late Qing Dynasty, some overseas Chinese professionals have returned to serve the motherland. The overseas Chinese professionals in the Republic of China can be regarded as the founders of modern Chinese disciplines. Over the past century, developed countries have been the main areas for the cultivation and gathering of overseas Chinese professionals.
Finally, Professor Zhuang Guotu made an assessment of the overall situation of overseas Chinese. He pointed out that the scale of overseas Chinese is very large, the economic strength should not be underestimated, and the talent pool is super-continent, and they have made great contributions to China's development. He also highly praised General Secretary Xi Jinping, as the Chinese leader who understands and values overseas Chinese affairs best, and has consistently positioned "Overseas Chinese are important contributors to China's development and national rejuvenation".
After the lecture, Professor Qi Chunfeng made a brief summary of the lecture and expressed his heartfelt thanks to Professor Zhuang Guotu. At the same time, he also had a good prospect for the study of overseas Chinese in School of Social Development, Nanjing Normal University.