Strategic Noncitizenship: Mainland Chinese Immigrants as Noncitizens in Australia

Ms Qiuping Pan1

1The University Of Melbourne, , Australia

This research aims to provide a bottom-up view of how Mainland Chinese immigrants approach, navigate, and act upon their statuses as citizens and noncitizens in their countries of residence. For this purpose, this paper presents an empirical case study of Mainland Chinese immigrants in Australia by integrating data sourced from Australia’s 2016 National Census as well as online and offline fieldwork. This paper develops the concept of strategic noncitizenship to understand Mainland Chinese immigrants’ responses to the constraining and changing citizenship frameworks in which they find themselves. Findings of this research suggest that, just like citizenship, noncitizenship can also be a strategic self-chosen way of being; one that still allows room for agentic practices, claims-making, and political empowerment. Therefore, noncitizenship is not necessarily precarious and powerless as often claimed. This paper has two discussion sections. The first identifies the distinctively low naturalisation rate among Mainland Chinese immigrants in Australia and explains why most of these immigrants have voluntarily chosen not to acquire Australian citizenship. The second part demonstrates how these noncitizen immigrants have tactically responded to and even contested Australia’s initiatives to tighten its citizenship framework. It also reflects upon noncitizens’ conditional political empowerment. This article concludes with future directions for research.


Qiuping has recently completed her PhD at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. Her research mainly focuses on contemporary Chinese immigrants and the socio-political activities of overseas Chinese communities. Her research reflects upon the aspirations and lived experiences of transnational mobility as well as the promise and pitfalls of accelerated transnational migration for individuals and nation-states alike.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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