Karachi is the largest city and the economic capital of Pakistan.
During the British colonial rule of South Asia, the port in Karachi served major sea lanes. The city’s strategic location stimulated its growth into a centre of commercial and industry. The prosperity of Karachi attracted people and traders from different parts of the world including a small number of Chinese.
Unlike other parts of the British Empire such as Malaya and Singapore, Chinese migrants who arrived at Karachi were not laborers and were involved in industry and trade. The Chinese migrants came from different parts of China and each dialect group specialized in a range of occupations and passed the business to their children. At the same time, the traditional Chinese emphasis on education produced new generations who received higher education. Many of the second and third generation descendents have migrated to other countries in search of economic opportunities.
Probably due to their very small numbers and the transitional nature of their stay, the Chinese communities in Karachi were not known to have built typical Chinese institutions such as temples, monasteries or formal clan associations.
Many Chinese families used to live in the PECHS and Tariq area but have since moved to the higher end Clifton and Defense areas. Many Chinese restaurants can be found in these areas.
Chinese dentists can be found in Empress Market area. These dentists can be identified through the text “Chinese Dentist” prominently marked on their sign boards.
Less obvious are Chinese operated businesses such as leather, handicraft and trading firms. Unless the owner is around, these businesses look no different from Pakistani operated ones.
The Chinese populations tend to keep a low profile and have good relationships with the rest of Pakistan society. Perhaps the site where most of these interactions take place is in a Chinese restaurant.
Chinese Food in Karachi
Chinese food is very popular and Chinese restaurants can be found all over the city as well as in almost all of the major hotels such as the Marriott, Pearl Continental, Avari Towers, and Carlton Hotel. Many of these restaurants are managed by Chinese or have a Chinese chef who have adapted to Islamic dietary requirements by offering Halal dishes.
Without clan associations, temples or monasteries, Chinese businesses such as restaurants and dentists have come to symbolize Chinese presence in Karachi and their good relationship with Pakistan society. And while there are no official Chinatown in Karachi, there is at least one restaurant call Chinatown.