Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Chinese “Global Tribe”

An important variable in the analysis of China’s significant economic growth has been the connection to and the recruitment of Chinese diaspora/expatriates around the globe. According to Cable and Ferdinand (1994), “50,000 expatriates a year are being recruited and over 100,000 Chinese work overseas on contracts and growing numbers of the Chinese elite are educated abroad. (p. 245) The value of such a huge network of Chinese residing and working around the globe is also echoed by Walder (1995) who states that “the Chinese Diaspora in South-East Asia and North America are filled with ethnic Chinese entrepreneurs who have proved to be valuable sources of knowledge and investment and who have served as important bridges to the world economy.” (p. 971) Maria Chang (1995) refers to this phenomenon as the Chinese ‘global tribe.’ She describes five major ‘global tribes’ of the world as being the Jewish diaspora, the Japanese, Asian Indians, the British and the English-speaking progeny (which includes Americans), and the Chinese. Chang further supports the claims of Cable and Ferdinand and Walder and concludes that “China stands on the cusp of a transformation in which the overseas Chinese ‘global tribe’ plays a pivotal role. Driven by the traditional motives of market-governed enterprise, the overseas Chinese have fueled the furious pace of China’s economic growth and development.” (p. 967)

The Chinese are one of the most academically mobile student populations on the planet and it is this population that is helping fuel the Chinese economy. According to the Institute of International Education, during the 2005-2006 academic year there were 62,582 students from China studying in the United States. This represents approximately 11% of the total international student population studying in the United States. Further evidence of the large numbers of Chinese students studying abroad can be found in the Institute of International Education’s Atlas of Student Mobility where 15.4% of the 344,335 international student population (the largest percentage) in the United Kingdom hails from China and in Germany students from China represent the largest percentage at 10.5% of the 246,334 total international students.


Cable, Vincent., and Ferdinand, Peter. 1994. “China as an Economic Giant: Threat or
Opportunity?” International Affairs 70: 243-261.

Chang, Maria Hsia. 1995. “Greater China and the Chinese ‘Global Tribe.’” Asian Survey 35: 955-967.

Institute of International Education. (2006). “Atlas of International Student Mobility.”

Institute of International Education. (2006). “Opendoors Online: Report on International Educational Exchange.”

Walder, Andrew G. 1995. “China’s Transitional Economy: Interpreting Its Significance.” The China Quarterly 144: 963-979.