The Chinese Diaspora in New Zealand: Conditions and Contestations of Cultural Citizenship


In this presentation Professor Yiyan Wang addresses issues relating to the cultural citizenship of Chinese New Zealanders. First, she will consider the diversity of Chinese communities in New Zealand, emphasizing the demographic changes of recent decades. Second, she will highlight the contributions the Chinese diaspora make to New Zealand society. Yiyan’s intention will be to explore whether Chinese New Zealanders can attain cultural citizenship. Since the Treaty of Waitangi is the foundation of the nation and the New Zealand government implements a policy of biculturalism, it is imperative to ask if and what space is available for people of ethnic minorities, culturally and politically.

Recent scholarship on cultural citizenship has shown that legal citizenship does not guarantee ethnic minorities full social participation or political representation. Cultural citizenship is a dual process of self-making and being-made within webs of power linked to the nation state and civil society. Given the diversity of the Chinese diaspora and their very different links to ‘home’ lands in different parts of the Chinese-speaking world, to what extent can the Chinese diaspora in New Zealand assert their right to be different? Can they adopt strategies deployed by Latin American communities in the United States to insist that the state consider their difference to be a valuable resource?

About the speaker

Yiyan Wang is Professor of Chinese at the School of Languages and Cultures, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her research is primarily in the areas of modern Chinese literature and modern Chinese cultural history. Her most recent publication is Modern Art for a Modern China: the Chinese Intellectual Debate, 1900-1930. London: Routledge, 2021.