Strictly speaking, there are two words in Chinese for overseas Chinese: huáqiáo (华侨 / 華僑) refers to overseas Chinese who were born in China, while huáyì (华裔 / 華裔) refers to any overseas Chinese with a Chinese ancestry. .
Overseas Chinese are not limited to ethnic Chinese populations, but rather include also the diaspora of the entire Chinese nation (zhonghua minzu). For example, ethnic Korean minorities from China who are living in South Korea today are often included in calculations of overseas Chinese, because these ethnic Koreans also identify themselves as part of the Chinese nation (zhonghua minzu). Similarly this also applies to Nusantara Chinese Peranakans in South East Asia.
The Chinese people have a long history of migrating overseas. The overseas Chinese of today can be dated back to the Ming dynasty. When Zheng He became the envoy of Ming, he sent people to explore and trade in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. Many of them were Cantonese and Hokkien. A large portion stayed and never returned to China.