The Chinese refer to their country as the Middle Kingdom, an indication of how central they have felt themselves to be throughout history.

There are cultural and linguistic variations in different regions, but for such a large country the culture is relatively uniform. However, fifty-five minority groups inhabit the more remote regions of the country and have their own unique cultures, languages, and religious identities.

Beyond the 1.3 Billion people living in mainland China, there is a vast Chinese diaspora (expats) living in Ethiopia, Europe, and in the United States.

The term “Chinese overseas” is generally used to refer to the approximately 46 million ethnic Chinese living outside China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. While short episodes of Chinese migration can be traced back through history, the phenomenon generally referred to as “Chinese Diaspora” only dates back to the mid-19th century (Liu & Van Dongen, 2013).

According to the IMO (International Maritime Organization), there are currently about 39.5 million Chinese migrants scattered across 130 countries.

Chinese in AFRICA
Mainly due to China’s investment in oil and infrastructure, which overtook the US to become Africa’s biggest trading partner in 2009, waves of migrants have temporarily settled in many African countries to work as construction workers and traders. Today, the total Chinese Population in Africa is estimated at more than one million (Migration Policy Institute), though it is virtually impossible to obtain a concrete figure. The biggest community in the continent can be found in Ethiopia, with an estimated population of 500,000 in Addis Ababa, alone, followed closely by South Africa, but smaller communities can be found in Tanzania, Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Angola, Mauritius, Madagascar and Algeria (Moban and Tan-Mullins).

The Chinese migrant presence in the African region is proving ever more prominent and important. As China continues to reinforce its relationship with Africa, mainly for economic reasons, Chinese citizens have started to migrate to the country and many more are expected to follow suit over the coming decades. Indeed, as Africa possesses important natural resources and is a potential new market for Chinese products, a wave of migrants principally composed of Chinese businessmen, alongside their relatives, could be expected to come. Ethiopia, Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana in particular might be the next most attractive African destinations (Grill, 2013).

Chinese in RUSSIA
Over the past decade, Chinese citizens have emerged as the fastest-growing ethnic minority in Russia and they represent the fourth biggest ethnic group in this country. Chinese population in Russia is estimated around 500,000 (European Chinese Association) and the main communities are in Moscow Chinatown, where around 20,000 live (Neumeyer) and in the Russian Far East (Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, and Ussuriysk).

China is always trying to find new economic partners and Russia appears to be a profitable and economically attractive one for the future. In particular, Chinese migration to the Russian Far East might also be a source of diplomatic tensions: most of the bordering region used to be under Chinese rule and there are valuable natural resources in that area. So if migration flows continue, there might be some political and economic issues to face in the future between the Chinese ethnic minority living in Russia (which currently is the fastest-growing ethnic minority in Russia) and Russian citizens (Latham. & Wu 2013).

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Country Snapshot

Area: (slightly smaller than the U.S.), total: 9,596,960 sq km (3,705,407 sq miles), land: 9,326,410 sq km (3,600,974 sq miles), water: 270,550 sq km (104,460 sq miles)

Population: 1,394,015,977 (July 2020 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.32% (2020 est.)

Capital City: Beijing

Independence Day: 1 October 1949 (People’s Republic of China established) – Still Communist party-led state

Ethnic Groups: Han Chinese 91.6%, Zhuang 1.3%, other (includes Hui, Manchu, Uighur, Miao, Yi, Tujia, Tibetan, Mongol, Dong, Buyei, Yao, Bai, Korean, Hani, Li, Kazakh, Dai, and other nationalities) 7.1% (2010 est.)

Languages: Standard Chinese or Mandarin (official; Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages (see Ethnic groups entry)

Life Expectancy at Birth: total population: 76.1 years, male: 74 years , female: 78.4 years (2020 est.)

Religious Groups: Buddhist 18.2%, Christian 5.1%, Muslim 1.8%, folk religion 21.9%, Hindu < 0.1%, Jewish < 0.1%, other 0.7% (includes Daoist (Taoist)), unaffiliated 52.2% (2010 est.)

SON’s Work with the Chinese Diaspora

Through the Back Door and Air Vents

As geopolitical events continue to influence and affect the possibility global work in countries like China, the Lord presents new opportunities and unique ways to continue reaching the Stay Behind and Spiritually Orphaned people of China, by reaching them in different countries.

There is a vast Chinese Diaspora (estimated at 500,000) living and working in Ethiopia, alone. SON Network is developing a global outreach to the Chinese diaspora residing in Ethiopia, Kenya, Russia, other European countries, plus the United States. This is already beginning with Mekane Yesus Lutheran Church in Ethiopia, as SON just penned a formal partnership agreement with Mekane Yesus to establish the first Chinese Lutheran Congregation in Ethiopia. Also, training 300+ Ethiopian missionaries (through Leadstar University in Ethiopia) to serve in China, as the cooperative relationship between China and Ethiopia has opened the doors for Ethiopian students to study in China. This opportunity provides for Ethiopian Christian trained as missionaries to be uniquely placed in mainland China as university students.

Sport Bible Camps

Beginning in summer 2020 SON Network will to take a small hand-picked team to Ethiopia to host Sport Camps that are centered on the Bible. These camps will serve as outreach opportunities for Mekane Yesus Lutheran Church and as opportunities to serve and engage Chinese Diaspora living in Ethiopia. We pray that the seeds that are planted will encourage and bless Stay Behind children and fan the embers of faith for both, Ethiopians and Chinese, alike.

Work in Mainland China

For over two decades CSV (now SON) worked for the welfare of the Chinese people in mainland China, with a focus mostly in Henan Province, as the founders of this Chinese ministry were born there, served there, and left their hearts there. The vision remains to provide a bright future for Stay Behind children through innovative educational programming and cooperative partnerships and to instill hope. While the presence of western missionaries has become a liability for embedded Chinese Christians, the mission continues through the tireless work of local, Chinese-born workers. Through their efforts and the support of SON supporters:

  • We enhance learning environments by establishing libraries for rural primary schools
  • We provide financial aid to help subsidize room and board costs to enable rural students to attend school
  • We provide innovative learning activities to inspire a child to life-long learning through peer leadership and mentorship programs staffed by the university and local volunteers administered by our Chinese staff
  • We facilitate faculty and student exchanges to foster professional and educational development
  • We facilitate cultural programs and summer camps to broaden students’ international perspectives
  • We facilitate relational friendships through service together for the sake of another