The new Chinese in Australia - with Barry Li

Guest: Barry Li, author, The new Chinese: How they are shaping Australia

Host: Bob Carr, Director, Australia-China Relations Institute, University of Technology Sydney

Australia is a country built on immigration, and the Chinese diaspora forms an important part of Australian society. Yet there is often a lack of understanding about this community.

Who are the ‘new Chinese’? What are their experiences of living in Australia? What are their views about the People’s Republic of China (PRC)? What are their aspirations and concerns for the future?

Barry Li joins Bob Carr to discuss the new Chinese and the need for improved mutual understanding between Australians and Chinese immigrants.

Many Australians have a gap in their knowledge about the PRC, still picturing it as the poor and tumultuous country of the Mao era and not understanding how much it has developed. This has led to misperceptions about new Chinese immigrants, and in some cases an unnecessary fear of the unfamiliar.

The ‘new Chinese’ can be defined as those born after 1949, when the PRC was established. Within the PRC, there are different ‘cut-off dates’ to distinguish between different generations of the new Chinese, including 1975 – at the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution – and 1990, when Deng Xiaoping embarked on his Southern Tour.

Different generations have different experiences of the PRC's development, and different generations of immigrants to Australia have therefore had different goals and faced different challenges. Older generations, for example, faced a significant language barrier and were largely unable to secure professional jobs. Their major motivation for moving to Australia was the improvement of their material wellbeing. Newer generations, however, are able to afford private university fees, can travel abroad, and have less difficulty finding professional jobs.

The majority of PRC citizens are positive about the direction in which their country is headed. Generally, the longer they stay overseas the more optimistic they become. This is because while they recognise China’s political system has its problems, they understand that Western democratic systems are not perfect, either. They are able to appreciate the costs and benefits of each system in its own context.

Theme music by Sam J Mitchell.

April 12 2018