New Zealand, like many countries, has recently shifted from casting emigrants in a negative light to celebrating expatriates as national champions. What explains this change? Wendy Larner focuses on recent government initiatives towards expatriates as part of a neoliberal ‘diaspora strategy’, aimed at constructing emigrants and their descendants as part of a community of knowledge-bearing subjects, in order to help the New Zealand economy ‘go global’. This study confirms that the new diaspora initiatives emerged from a process of neoliberal reform. However, it also highlights that in the same period, older inherited institutional frameworks for interacting with expatriates were being dismantled as part of a different dynamic within the wider neoliberalisation process. It argues that the shift in official attitudes towards expatriates arose from the overlap between these two processes in the period 1999–2008. In this way, the research builds on the ‘diaspora strategy’ concept, placing it within a broader analysis of institutional transformation through ‘creative destruction’, and linking it to a wider research agenda aimed at understanding state–diaspora relations beyond the reach of neoliberalism.