July 2007
Alien Nation

Wary of the new wave

TO A common Juan, a Chinese is a Chinese is a Chinese. Ask him to distinguish between the old and the new and you might as well ask him what jiuqiao and xinqiao mean. They’re alien to him, pardon the pun.

But the Tsinoys want to make sure people can discern the differences between the jiuqiao and xinqiao, and several of them have even written papers to help ensure this.

Both terms trace their roots to the word Huaqiao, or “Chinese sojourner,” from Hua, a term used by the Chinese to refer to their country, and qiao, which means “to stay away from home somewhere temporarily.” Xin means “new” in Mandarin and jiu means “old.” Thus, xinqiao means new migrants and jiuqiao, old migrants.

Jiuqiao, according to a report by Wesley Chua, are those who immigrated before World War II, those who fled from mainland China in 1949 before the communist army took over, and the refugees who left their homeland during the early stages of the communist rule there. The Tsinoys — the third and fourth-generation ethnic Chinese who have become integrated into the Filipino mainstream — are the descendants of the jiuqiao.

Xinqiao refers to those who arrived in the Philippines during the last three and a half decades, or from the late 1970s to the present. They are those who benefited from the opening of formal diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China in 1975. But there is nothing diplomatic at all with the term several Tsinoys use to refer to them: TDK or tai diok ka, which means simply “mainlander” in Hokkien yet takes on a pejorative flavor when jiuqiao use it.

“I thought of the xinqiao as harbingers of trouble for the Tsinoy community,” confesses Krysty Choi in Tulay, a Chinese-Filipino newsletter, “I would hear the word tai diok ka — or the even shorter term ‘TDK’ — and the image of a cocky, swaggering illegal immigrant would immediately leap to mind.”

The ethnic Chinese account for 1.2 percent of the total Philippine population, according to the National Statistics Office. That translates to a little over a million jiuqiao and xinqiao altogether, although the figure does not include the illegals, who are assumed to belong to the latter group.

Citizens of the People’s Republic of China rank first in the Bureau of Immigration (BI)’s list of undocumented foreigners. From January to May 2007, there have been 20 Chinese nationals detained by authorities after being found without the necessary papers.

Danilo Almeda, BI’s Alien Registration Division chief, says they really cannot tell just how many illegal Chinese migrants there are in the country. Teresita Ang See, head of the nongovernmental organization Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran, meanwhile estimates that there may be 80,000 to 100,000 Chinese illegals in the country. Such figures, she says in a 2004 paper, were “culled arbitrarily from the number of deportations carried out each year and in the discrepancy between the figures of arrivals and departures.” Of these, she adds, “70 to 80 percent are said to be Chinese citizens.”

“Some Tsinoys point out that many of the new immigrants are illegal from head to toe,” Chua writes. “Many don’t have proper residency documents. They engage in retail trade without a license. They don’t have business names for the store, or else use a fictitious name. They’re not registered with the Bureau of Internal Revenue or, if registered, do not issue sales invoices or receipts because they don’t know English.”

It’s not only because many xinqiao do business illegally in the country that they irritate the jiuqiao. The truth is they pose a threat to the earlier migrants’ businesses. Although perceived as being ill-mannered and “uncivilized,” many of the xinqiao are said to be better educated, wealthier, and with more business savvy than the jiuqiao. They are also daring, says Chua, with “business practices that verge on the unethical and shock the conservative Tsinoy.” Most xinqiao went into retail trade and opened stores in bargain malls like Tutuban, 168, and Greenhills, as well as in the markets of Divisoria, Baclaran, and Quiapo, but Chua says, “most of their goods may have been smuggled.”

Just recently, Customs agents swooped down on Binondo’s 168 Shopping Mall, which is known for goods that are dirt-cheap. The raid was prompted by complaints from the Philippine Retailers Association, which regarded the mall’s very low prices as highly suspicious and a possible indication that the goods may have been smuggled or that the businesses there are mere fronts for drug trafficking. K9 teams were deployed for the raid; 20,000 sacks of goods were seized, but media reports said that no drugs were found.

Still, the alleged links of xinqiao to drug trafficking are nothing new. In her 2004 paper, Ang See noted that “100 percent of laboratories manufacturing illegal drugs raided by the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency were owned and run by Chinese nationals. Of the cases filed in court, involving drug busts of a hundred kilos and above, close to 90 percent involved Chinese nationals.”

If the jiuqiao are wary toward the xinqiao, the new migrants are not all that impressed with the oldtimers either. Most of the xinqiao, in fact, refuse to join local Tsinoy associations. In Chinese schools, children of new immigrants refuse to fraternize with Tsinoy students. Chua says that the newcomers regard the Tsinoys as “fools who do not want to take shortcuts to earn fortunes.” In addition, he says, the xinqiao “look down on Tsinoy’s lack of proficiency in the Chinese language.” Meaning Mandarin, of course. Among Tsinoys, speaking Chinese means talking in Hokkien.