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Special Feature

“New Migrant” Organisations and the Chinese Diaspora State(s) in the Twenty-first Century: The Case of Japan

Els van Dongen
p. 17-27


In the last two decades, local Chinese governments have become involved in the foundation of “new migrant” voluntary organisations abroad, which have increasingly served economic and diplomatic goals. Using the case study of the establishment of the federation-style New Overseas Chinese and Ethnic Chinese Association in Japan (NOCECAJ) in 2003, this article argues that the main new organisations in Japan have specifically supported regional talent recruitment in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and public diplomacy goals and, more recently, the agenda of the “serving” and “caring” Chinese state. Because of the troubled history of Sino-Japanese relations, these organisations have furthermore worked for the betterment of bilateral relations. This article makes the case that, despite unification and co-optation efforts, the expansion of the immersion of local governments and diaspora engagement offices at provincial and city levels urges us to disaggregate the “diaspora state” in favour of an intricate and shifting set of interactions between a wide range of diasporic actors at multiple levels. Moving beyond both “state-led transnationalism” and “networked governance,” it hence posits that “assemblage” as an approach can better help us grasp the convolutions of Chinese diaspora engagement in the twenty-first century.

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Editor’s notes

Manuscript received on 2 December 2021. Accepted on 25 July 2022.


Full text document will be published online on December 2023.


Introduction: Background, approach, and contributions
New migrant organisations and diaspora engagement in the twenty-first century
New Chinese migrant organisations in Japan and the NOCACEJ
The “big eight” founding members of the NOCECAJ
Serving the Chinese diaspora: The Tokyo Chinese Service Centre
Concluding remarks

First lines

Introduction: Background, approach, and contributions

The emergence of the “new migrants” (xin yimin 新移民) since economic reform in 1978 has been accompanied by a growing number of new migrant voluntary organisations globally. Whereas the older organisations were constituted along the “intersecting” “segments” of dialect, surname, and region, these newer organisations also include alumni and professional organisations, among others (Crissman 1967). Also, whereas older organisations – long considered one of the three main pillars of Chinese communities, together with schools and newspapers – were created in the context of sojourning under harsh conditions, these new migrant organisations emerged in the setting of China’s economic ascent and globalisation (Zhuang 2010: 10). The older organisations provided mutual aid and protection, resolved disputes, and mediated between the Chinese community and local rulers. Furthermore, they connected migrants with their hometowns through remittance...

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Bibliographical reference

Els van Dongen, “New Migrant” Organisations and the Chinese Diaspora State(s) in the Twenty-first Century: The Case of JapanChina Perspectives, 2022/04 | 2022, 17-27.

Electronic reference

Els van Dongen, “New Migrant” Organisations and the Chinese Diaspora State(s) in the Twenty-first Century: The Case of JapanChina Perspectives [Online], 2022/04 | 2022, Online since 01 December 2023, connection on 01 April 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Els van Dongen

Els van Dongen is Associate Professor of history at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. School of Humanities, Nanyang Technological University, 48 Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639818 (

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