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The Immigrant Population

China Introduction Historical Development Current Migration Development Migration Policies The Immigrant Population Citizenship Integration Refuge and Asylum Irregular Migration Current Developments References

The Immigrant Population

Lan Diao Maren Opitz

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The largest group of foreign migrants in China are from Asia, especially Korea. But there are considerable groups of migrants from North America, Europe, India and Australia. Most foreigners live in the cities of Shanghai or Beijing and the provinces along the coast.

Shop in the Korean neighbourhood of Beijing. Koreans make up the largest group of foreign migrants in China. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

According to the 2010 census, at the end of 2010 Koreans made up the largest group of foreign migrants, consisting of 120,750 people, followed by U.S. citizens (71,493 people) and Japanese (66,159 people). In fourth and fifth place were immigrants from Myanmar (39,776 people) and Vietnam (36,205), respectively. Furthermore, in 2010, there were 19,990 Canadians, 15,087 French, 15,051 Indians as well as 14,446 German and 13,286 Australian citizens in China. Forty-three percent of the foreigners were female, and 57 percent male.

Just under 70 percent of all foreigners (including people from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan) had lived at least a year in the People’s Republic. The following motives for migration were indicated most often in the 2010 census: professional reasons (around 400,000 people), studies (around 200,000 people) and the wish to settle in China (around 187,000 people). Geographical Distribution

Foreign population in China: Top 10 countries of origin (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/3.0/de/

The highest concentrations of foreigners are registered in the cities of Shanghai and Beijing, the provinces along the coast as well as in the southern Chinese provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan. Today the largest Korean community, with 200,000 people, is in Beijing. The largest Japanese community (over 50,400 people) lives in Shanghai’s Gubei district. Other examples for the geographic concentration of individual migrant groups are the “African zone” in the southern province of Guangzhou in which an estimated 200,000 people from African countries live, and the “Street of the Middle East” in the southeastern city of Yiwu. It is here where Muslim traders have established the largest handling facility for small consignments worldwide. In addition, there is an increasing number of domestic workers from the Philippines in mainland China.

National Minorities

The national minorities also contribute to the cultural and ethnic diversity of the country. Ten of the 55 recognized minorities have a population of between 2-16 million: The Zhuang minority is the largest, with 16 million members, followed by the Manchu (10.7 million) and Hui (9.8 million). The total 106 million minority members only make up about 8.4 percent of the population. They can be found, however, on around 60 percent of the Chinese territory, including regions rich in raw materials, border areas and in the western part of the country.

This text is part of the Interner Link: country profile China.



  1. Shen (2011).

  2. Shen (2011), Ludwig (2009), pp. 8f., Senz (2010), Lai (2009), pp. 2-4.


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Lan Diao, Doctor of Educational Sciences in foreign language didactics with a focus on Chinese didactics, originally comes from Beijing and is currently a teacher for Chinese and German at a secondary school in Hamburg.

Maren Opitz has a master’s degree in International Migration and Intercultural Relations from the University of Osnabrück and is currently working for the German Youth for Understanding Committee in Hamburg. After completing her bachelor studies in Sinology, Civil Law and Language Acquisition Research she spent two years in China where she worked inter alia in the office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Shanghai.