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Lan Diao Maren Opitz

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The Chinese citizenship law is based on the principle of jus sanguinis and does not permit dual citizenship. Naturalization of non-ethnic Chinese foreigners is possible only under specific conditions and thought to be rather uncommon.

Wedding dress store in Beijing. Chinese citizenship law is mainly based on the principle of jus sanguinis. However, naturalization of foreigners is possible - for example through marriage with a Chinese citizen if the applicant abandons his original citizenship. (© picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb)

The Citizenship Law, passed in 1980 and still in force today, regulates the issuance of Chinese citizenship. The law is based on the principle of jus sanguinis, and under it children with one or two Chinese parents are automatically granted Chinese citizenship, regardless of whether or not they were born on Chinese soil (Articles 4 and 5). The principle of ancestry is softened to the effect that children of Chinese people living abroad long-term do not obtain citizenship if the country in which they are born grants citizenship based on the territoriality principle (jus soli). This is intended to prevent the dual citizenship, which is forbidden according to Article 3 of the Citizenship Law.

According to Article 9, Chinese people who have taken on another citizenship automatically lose their Chinese citizenship. This regulation has historical roots: in the first years after the founding of the People’s Republic, the Chinese living in Southeast Asia were still allowed to possess dual citizenship. States such as Indonesia, however, that had only just become independent and, for the most part, were anti-communistic perceived this as a danger for their own state-building process. As a consequence, in order to avoid diplomatic tensions, China concluded a treaty with Indonesia prohibiting dual citizenship for the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. The treaty entered into force in 1960. Government advisors have recently suggested moving away from the non-recognition of dual citizenship. So far, the government, however, has not changed its course.

Article 7 of the Citizenship Law allows for the naturalization of foreigners under certain conditions, for example if a close relationship with a Chinese citizen exists or if the persons concerned reside in China long-term. The number of naturalized people thus far, in particular those without a relationship with an ethnic Chinese person, is small. In fact, the Chinese government does not use the issuance of Chinese citizenship to offer targeted incentives for potential (well-educated) returnees or investors.

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



  1. No statistics were accessible to the authors.

  2. Dan (2009), p. 27, GovHK (2010), Skrentny et al. (2007), p. 805.


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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.