Chinese presence in Singapore has been prevalent throughout history with archaeological evidence of Chinese contact with Singapore as far back as the Song dynasty and Chinese documentation mentioning travels to Singapore across various centuries. Between 1819 and 1942 widespread economic and political strife in China saw an exodus of Chinese to Singapore. In the present, Chinese Singaporeans make up a majority of the population at 74.1%.
Political and economic strife has been a major factor in the growth of Chinese Diaspora to Singapore. The destruction caused by the Taiping Rebellion from 1850-64 saw mass migration to the British Colony of Singapore which became the capital of the British Straits Settlement. Other political and economic turbulences including the Boxer Rebellion and various other political uprisings, the first and second Opium Wars and famines and other natural disasters added to the great Chinese diaspora and persuaded people to leave China for Singapore and other South East Asian colonies. Both Chinese traders were excited by the opportunities allowed by the free trade agreements and labourers were needed to aid the development of a growing economy and area until the ban on the Coolie trade in 1914.
The British laid the foundation for the development of Singapore into the economic powerhouse it is today by turning it in to one of Asia’s leading trading ports during its colonisation. The establishment as a leading trade port brought investment to Singapore and helped establish its economy.
However, the contribution of the Chinese to the development of Singapore is essential in understanding its development. Singapore attracted Chinese from all walks of life that were fleeing economic or political hardship in China. The free trade settlement and access to the trading routes of the world, especially after the opening of the Suez Canal meant that Chinese merchants and traders could trade on the global market. The development of the economy also meant that unskilled labourers were needed to fill the unskilled job market and helped in the growth of the metropolis we know today.
Politically, the contribution of the Chinese was even recognised by the British when the Chinese Protectorate was established 1877 to protect the human rights of the coolies working in Singapore. Furthermore, the British adopted a policy of ‘Chinese governing Chinese’, appointing Chinese officials to govern the Singaporean Chinese community. Hence, the contribution of the Chinese was even recognised by the British.
Therefore, Chinese political and economic strife saw the beginning of the diaspora to Singapore, a British colony at the time. Although the British laid the foundations for the develop it has received, the work and contribution of the Chinese made it into the success it is today.