Our article analyzes how Chinese capital inflows in the Philippines shape the self-identification of Filipino Chinese. Through a discursive analysis of five Filipino Chinese social media groups, which comprise at least 25,000 members, we argue that comment writers in Filipino Chinese groups readily interpreted Chinese capital in the Philippines, particularly in relation to the South China Sea disputes, Rodrigo Duterte’s rapprochement with China, Xi Jinping’s Philippine visit, and the rise of online gambling, through the prism of culture-based idioms. We find three contradictory discourses. First, there is a discourse of Sinicization that defines Filipino Chinese through a singular definition of Chineseness. Second, a discourse of brokerage has emerged, wherein Filipino Chinese positionality is represented by a synthesis of Chinese, Filipino, and Western identities. Finally, a discourse of distinction has also grown, framing Filipino Chinese as different from the mainland Chinese and the Filipinos.
The Chinese in Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, and Panama have had long histories of migration dating back to the nineteenth century, when British and Spanish colonial powers started to bring them to the Caribbean and Latin America from Guangdong province. The primary goal was to provide labor for the sugar cane, guano, bird nest, gold and silver mining, and other industries. In the 1870s, Havana could boast of having the largest Chinatown in the Caribbean, with more than 10,000 Chinese. Today, it has fewer than 100 Chinese Cubans. Trinidad and Tobago’s population of Chinese waned after the nineteenth century, but many Trinidadians have some Chinese ancestry, while Panama currently has the highest percentage (7 percent) of Chinese among Latin American countries. What stories, approaches, and lessons can be learned by comparing their histories to that of the Chinese in the Philippines? More specifically, how are the experiences of the Chinese in these three countries, whether citizen or recent immigrant, similar to those in the Philippines? What can we learn from the scholarship on the Chinese in the Caribbean that can help shape our own research agenda in studying the Chinese in the Philippines? Through a combination of historical and ethnographic research, this essay discusses the ways in which the identities of each Chinese diasporic community are being shaped by local and external forces, including China’s increasing presence in the region. This essay hopes to serve as a guidepost to Chinese diaspora scholars interested in examining further the transhemispheric connections between the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.
Between 1837 and 1882, the Spanish colonial government in the Philippines deported “undesirable” Chinese—vagrants, drunkards, unemployed, idlers, pickpockets, undocumented, and the “suspicious”—to various parts of the archipelago. Deportation, in this context, refers to the transportation or banishment of individuals deemed “dangerous” by the state to different far-flung areas of the islands or outside the colony but still within the Spanish empire. Deportation primarily served as a form of punishment and a means to rehabilitate and improve the wayward lives of “criminals.” This paper examines the deportation of “undesirable” Chinese in the nineteenth-century Philippines. Using underutilized primary materials from various archives in Manila and Madrid, it interrogates the actors, institutions and processes involved in banishing such individuals. It argues that while deportation served its punitive and reformative functions, Spanish authorities also used it to advance their colonial project in the islands. Chinese deportees formed part of the labor supply the state used to populate the colony’s frontier areas and strengthen its control over its newly-acquired territories.
In the last decade, the Philippines has experienced an escalation of anti-Chinese sentiment due to many factors, founded and unfounded. The growing presence of illegal immigrants and crimes associated with them; an increase in the number of Chinese workers, who are perceived as competing with Filipino workers; an increase in Chinese businesses, especially in retail, some operating without permits; the continuing dispute between China and the Philippines over the islands in the West Philippine Sea; President Rodrigo Duterte’s China pivot policy and what has been deemed as favoring China to the detriment of the Philippines. This confluence of events has served to worsen the image of China.
The covid-19 pandemic and the way the government responded to it worsened the sinophobia directed at anyone considered “Chinese,” including Filipinos of Chinese ancestry. This paper explores the racism vented against the Chinese and how the local Chinese-Filipino community has responded with positive action to help mitigate the anti-Chinese wave.