Anti-Taiwanese Discrimination in Australia

A mass wave of mainland Chinese immigration to Australia has led to discrimination against Taiwanese expats there.

A weird story from NYT (“In Australia, Staying Loyal to Taiwan Can Mean Losing a Job“):

During her second week waitressing at a barbecue restaurant in Sydney, a customer asked Yating Yang if she was Chinese. “No, I’m Taiwanese,” she said.

Her boss, who was from mainland China, never gave her another shift.

Man-Tzu Tuan said her loyalty test came even sooner: on her first day at a hot pot restaurant in a comfortable Sydney suburb. “Is Taiwan part of China?” her manager asked in Mandarin over a walkie talkie. “No, definitely not,” she said.

A half-hour later, she was fired.

China’s assertiveness has already set off alarms in Australia, with officials warning that Beijing has been meddling in Australian politics more than the public realizes. But the experiences of Ms. Yang and Ms. Tuan — along with many others — reveal how Chinese nationalism is also affecting private enterprise and, in some cases, leading to accusations of discrimination.

Australia’s fair work laws make clear that an employer cannot discriminate against an employee or prospective employee because of the person’s “political opinion, national extraction or social origin.” But experts and Taiwanese workers say that is exactly what many Chinese business owners are doing, with few repercussions.

“It’s getting more noticeable,” said Yao-Tai Li, a Taiwanese sociologist at Hong Kong Baptist University who has studied Chinese migration to Australia and work conditions. “Chinese nationalism is growing, but the Australian government doesn’t really take any big actions; they keep it ambiguous.”


Hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese have immigrated to Australia in the past decade. Many of them have brought ideas for businesses, but also an ideology that stresses the unity of China, viewing Taiwan as a rebellious territory that broke away in 1949.

And as China’s government has intensified a crackdown on those who fail to recognize its One China policy — from human rights advocates to corporations like the Marriott hotel chain — members of the Chinese diaspora have similarly taken up the cause on a more personal scale.

Their efforts have added to a sense of Chinese ubiquity: For anyone who identifies as Taiwanese, supports Taiwan’s independence — or even inadvertently refers to Taiwan as a country — Chinese nationalism has become a threatening and unrelenting presence, like a smog that never lifts.

In Australia, service workers, professionals and students from Taiwan have all described gatherings with mainland colleagues and acquaintances where the default setting is that Taiwan and China are one country.

Disagreement is not encouraged.

“Even people who are very pro-Taiwan often don’t want it to be known publicly,” said Roger Huang, 35, a Taiwanese academic who helped organize last year’s Sydney Taiwan Festival. “Self-censorship is very real.”

The report is incredibly anecdotal, so it’s not clear how widespread the problem is. But it’s certainly sinister.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I admittedly don’t follow the China-Taiwan issue very closely, but this seems to be symptomatic of a more assertive nationalism that is taking hold among the civilian population in China, at least in cities like Beijing, that has asserted itself in protests over clashes between China and other countries over islands in the South China Sea and other issues. Obviously, such protests are likely engineered by the government and the Communist Party, but many analysts I’ve read have also suggested that one consequence of China’s rising economic power has been a more assertive nationalism among the general public than we’ve seen in the past.

    The same thing seems to be happening in Taiwan, where there are now many people with no living memory of the time before the Communist Revolution and the exile of the Republic of China to Taiwan in the late 40s. These people seem to think of themselves as being more distinctly Taiwanese than Chinese.

    What this means for already chilly relations between the two nations I have no idea, but it could be worth paying attention to.

  2. Andy says:

    It also plays heavily in US-China Mil-to-mil exchanges.

  3. Franklin says:

    Hong Kong is getting similar treatment. “One country, two systems” my ass. That two is at about 1.6 at the moment and dropping rapidly. That’s unfortunate, because HK was and still kinda is an attractive destination (largely thanks to the Brits; there I said it).