New Chinese Migration to Germany: Historical Consistencies and New Patterns of Diversification within a Globalized Migration Regime



Chinese migration to Germany is not very well documented, even though sojourners arrived in this country as early as the first half of the eighteenth century. There is some research on particular issues in specific historical contexts, such as the discrimination and persecution during the Third Reich (Yü-Dembski, 1996, 1997), Chinese students in Germany between 1860 and 1945 (Harnisch, 1999), Chinese-German mixed marriages (Groeling-Che, 1991), and irregular immigration and human trafficking during the 1980s and 1990s (Giese, 1999a). Yet, no systematic research on the history of Chinese migration or continuous analysis of more recent migration trends and related political issues has been carried out so far. Some of the reasons for this include: Chinese communities have always formed only a small minority among the non-German population; after World War II, Chinese communities were dispersed over the whole of (West) Germany and they have not created any visible “Chinatown” yet; and, until very recently, there seemed to be virtually no political or social problems related to Chinese migrants, and the few emerging political issues still appear insignificant compared to those related to other ethnic groups. As a result, Chinese immigration and the lives of Chinese migrants — widely ignored as a potential research topic for Modern China Studies in Germany — have not yet received attention from scholars of social sciences.

This article will attempt to offer a comprehensive summary of the history of new Chinese migration to Germany from the early 1970s to the end of the second millennium. Mainly based on official statistics, it will then discuss recent trends in Chinese immigration for different groups of migrants since the 1990s, focusing on policy-related issues and political implications of these recent and potential future developments.