Global Opportunities Beyond the Radar

Fresh off the Boat: An Immigrant Story


Warlords. Communists. Nationalists.

China was a fractured nation in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The land was being fought over by various groups with competing agendas. Starvation, disease, and murder was rampant.

Western observers could only shake their heads as they watched the chaos unfold, calling China ‘the sick man of Asia.’

It was a fitting name for a seemingly hopeless country.


Fuzhou women and children studying the Bible, circa 1870s. Source: Wikipedia


Among the many who suffered during this turbulent time were my great-grandparents:

Fortunately for my great-grandparents, there was a way out:



Leaving China forever


Nervous but hopeful, my great-grandparents took heed:


Pathway of Chinese migration. Source: Wikipedia


Their voyage through the South China Sea was perilous:

Fortunately, against the odds, my great-grandparents arrived safely on the rugged shores of British Malaya:


Chinese worker tapping rubber in British Malaya. Source: Al-Jazeera


Still, my great-grandparents counted their blessings:

You could say that all this has become the founding mythology of my family:


Passing the torch


I’m a fourth-generation Malaysian of Chinese Fuzhou descent. I also happen to be a first-generation New Zealander. I was raised a Christian. I grew up speaking only English at home:


Celebrating Christmas. Source: Canva


We straddle the razor’s edge between East and West:


Chinese communities across the world


In Malaysia, we are under attack by Malay ultranationalists with a postcolonial score to settle:

In Singapore, we are mindful that we are an ethnic Chinese island fishing in a hostile Malay sea:

In Indonesia, we only make up around 1% of the population:


Protests in Hong Kong. Source: The New York Times


In Hong Kong, we were promised ‘one country, two systems’:

In Taiwan, our legitimacy as a nation is a fraught subject:

Finally, throughout the Western world, our immigrant communities continue to thrive:

Millions of lives. Millions of stories. Each one unique and remarkable:



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John Ling

Analyst, Wealth Morning

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