China Town in Sydney (Photo by JAQ'S PhotoStorage)
When I first started going to a university in Sydney, I was surprised by the number of Asian people I saw. There were tons of them, and they were especially Chinese. I knew that I was one of the Asians, but I had never seen so many Asians at one time.
Anyway, that was when I started wondering why there are so many Chinese in Australia, and I believe it is important and interesting to know the history when in Australia. I did a quick research from the book called “Chinese Migration and Settlement In Australia” by C.Y. Choi.
Australia, as well as other new Anglo-Saxon countries like California, British Columbia and New Zealand, was in great demand, because of frontier development.
Firstly, this demand was met by the convicts sent to Australia (and the black slaves to the U.S.). However, because the British Empire abolished slavery in 1833, these countries came to have Chinese workers instead to meet the demand. In addition, in 1860, the Peking Convention made it legal to recruit Chinese workers in treaty ports.
The first Chinese workers, made up of 100 adults and 20 boys, came from Amoy (Xiamen) to New South Wales through the agency of J. Tait in 1848. From then on, there were some influx of Chinese people, but the author says that there was probably less than 3000 by the Gold Rush period.
Then, because of the Gold discoveries in New South Wales and Victoria in 1851, the situation of Chinese emigrants underwent a large increase in terms of numbers.
Nevertheless, the Australians at that time, including the convicts, feared the intense increase of Chinese, and laws that restrict the number of immigrants were legislated in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales from 1855 to 1861. In addition, A similar but more strict law to exclude Chinese and other races was enacted, which was the Commonwealth Immigration Restriction Act 1901-1956, which required all the immigrants to take dictation tests.
Therefore, even though It is believed to have been 45,000 to 50,000 Chinese at its peak, there occurred a number of departures back to China, and the census in 1901 recorded only 29,627 Chinese in Australia. The Chinese population had continued the decline, and it was the lowest in 1947 with the number of less than 10,000 including only 5,400 of foreign born Chinese.
After the establishment of the People’s Republic in China in 1949, many Chinese feared of being taken away land ownership or being considered to be ‘bourgeois’, and that was one of the triggers of Chinese people to decide settle permanently abroad.
Therefore, the departures back to China stopped, and a continuous increase of Chinese population begun in the post war period since 1947,
In the first half of the 19th century, Australia, as well as other new Anglo-Saxon countries like California, British Columbia and New Zealand, was in great demand, because of frontier development.