the remittance trade and enterprising Chinese Australians, 1850-1916

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the last few decades, more than 160,000 remittance documents have been found and preserved in Guangdong and Fujian, as part of the qiaopi and yinxin project. The recovery of these documents is important for empirical studies focusing attention on the historical development and social-economic impact of the Chinese remittance network. Remittances have been credited with helping to rectify China’s international balance of payments, modernizing industry and commerce in Fujian and Guangdong, institutionalizing the remittance trade, and strengthening the transnational networks of Chinese families (Yao 1943; Lin 1987; Du 1995; Dai 2003; Chen 2008; Liu 2009; Chen 2010). Most importantly, studies on Chinese remittances demonstrate that the Chinese approach to organising remittances was different from the remittance behaviour of English-speaking immigrants, who favoured the use of money orders and telegraphic transfers by individuals (Magee and Thompson 2006, 179-180). In Chinese remittance networks, local Chinese merchants, clan associations, mobile brokers, bankers, postmasters, and interpreters collaborated through various channels. Thus, a “social network” approach has been employed in qiaopi and yinxin studies to explain how economic behaviour was constructed and reconstructed locally and internationally by social associations (Chen 2000; Hsu 2000; Dai 2003; Chen 2008; Hamashita 2008; Liu and Li 2011; Benton and Liu 2015; Harris 2015). Rather than focus on self-interest and profit-seeking, the interrelationship between the growth of the remittance business and social associations is often implicit in the success of the former. This chapter follows the same characterization of Chinese remittance network but asks how the world economy functionally influenced the Chinese approach to organizing the remittance business beyond social associations and cultural pursuits. It focuses on the Chinese Australian remittance trade in a world economy enhanced by gold output. Chinese Australian remittances have barely figured in qiaopi and yinxin studies, due to the limited amount of surviving remittance documents. By examining the remittance networks of Chinese Australians from the late nineteenth century through to 1916, this chapter argues that cultural pursuits and social-networks cannot adequately explain the Chinese Australian remittance trade, and that one must look beyond that to the emergence of Australian economic power in the Pacific region. It also discusses the impact of remittance networks and practices on enterprising Chinese Australians. Jinxin reflect the transformation of Chinese immigrants from gold diggers to trans-local capitalists at a time when the world economy was undergoing fundamental changes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe qiaopi trade and transnational networks in the Chinese diaspora
EditorsGregor Benton, Hong Liu, Huimei Zhang
Place of PublicationLondon ; New York
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781315113043
ISBN (Print)9780367445102, 9781138081062
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
EventThe Qiaopi Trade in China and Overseas - , Singapore
Duration: 9 Oct 201510 Oct 2015

Publication series

NameChinese Worlds


WorkshopThe Qiaopi Trade in China and Overseas

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