Changing Chinese Migration Law: From Restriction to Relaxation


This paper offers new insights into Chinese migration law since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, set against a backdrop of briefly examined historical developments in international migration law. Despite significant changes during its years of reform and opening up—with the massive influx of foreigners into, and exodus of Chinese citizens from, China—Chinese migration law is still restrictive and unadvanced. As part of its reform and opening-up policies, China has been relaxing its control on persons crossing its border, and advancing its exit and entry administration. The paper also offers an exploration of fresh perspectives on Chinese migration law’s history, including insights into the comparative value—for Chinese migration law—of international migration law experiences.


Cet article offre de nouvelles perspectives sur la loi chinoise en matière d’immigration depuis l’établissement de la République populaire de Chine en 1949 et ce, dans le contexte d’un aperçu sur des développements historiques relatifs à la loi sur la migration internationale. Malgré les changements significatifs qui ont eu lieu pendant les années de réformes et d’ouverture, et en dépit de l’afflux immense d’étrangers vers la Chine et l’exode de citoyens chinois, la loi chinoise en matière d’immigration demeure restreignante et rétrograde. Dans le cadre de ses réformes et ses politiques visant l’ouverture, la Chine relâche son contrôle des mouvements transfrontières et fait avancer les conditions d’entrée et de sortie. Cet article propose de nouvelles perspectives sur l’historique de la loi chinoise en matière d’immigration, y compris une approche originale quant à la valeur comparative des expériences relatives à la loi sur la migration internationale.

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  1. 1.

    Huaqiao refers to Chinese citizens born in China and legally residing outside China. See Article 2 (1) of the Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of Returned Chinese Citizens who Legally Resided Outside of China and the Family Members of Chinese Citizens who Legally Resided Outside of China (Amendment) 2000 (PRC).

  2. 2.

    Right-wing political opposition refers to people who oppose Marxist, people’s democratic dictatorship, communist system, state ownership, and one-party reign of the Chinese Communist Party in China.

  3. 3.

    In 1985, the average annual per capita income for a rural person was C¥574.31 ($US 66.18), whereas the average annual per capita income in urban areas was C¥748.92 ($US 90.56). This was calculated based on the data from the National Bureau of Statistics of China at “Per Capita GDP from 1952 to 2002” (1952 Nian – 2002 Nian Renjun Guomin Shengchan Zongzhi),

  4. 4.

    International migrant refers to persons who currently reside in a country other than where they were born, at Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the United Nations (2002). International Migration 2002.


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Correspondence to Guofu Liu.

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Liu, G. Changing Chinese Migration Law: From Restriction to Relaxation. Int. Migration & Integration 10, 311–333 (2009).

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  • China
  • Migration law
  • Historical development
  • Reform
  • Restriction and relaxation

Mots clés

  • Chine
  • loi en matière d’immigration
  • développement historique
  • réforme
  • restriction
  • relâchement