2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 380

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From Here to There: Destinations and Experiences of Chinese Migrants

Organizer: Eric W. C. Fong, University of Toronto, Canada

Chair: Cindy Fan, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Discussants: Gungwu Wang, National University of Singapore, Singapore; Arianne M. Gaetano, Auburn University, USA

Researchers who study migration are often institutionally and intellectually organized into communities defined by discipline and by whether the subject matter concerns international or internal migration. This panel seeks to challenge the above borders, by bringing together social scientists from three different disciplines and by highlighting perspectives that are useful for both international and internal migrations. The four papers all address the Chinese as migrants. They focus on different periods and different parts of the world, yet all four papers concern the migrants’ relationships with their destinations as well as the social bases and underpinnings of such relationship. Eric Fong et al.’s paper highlights the family dimension to explain the diverse destinations of emigrants from China. Susanne Choi’s paper examines the social support and experiences of marriage migrants from mainland China to Hong Kong. Focusing on Taiwanese-Chinese immigrants to Canada and Guam, Nora Chiang’s paper tells a diasporic story of struggle, adaptation, integration, and new identity. Also using migrants’ biographies, Cindy Fan’s paper shows how Chinese rural-urban migrants straddle and circulate between the city and the countryside in order to protect their social investments. Gungwu Wang will be the discussant of these papers.

Diversification of Destinations among Emigrant Families in Fuqing, China
Eric W. C. Fong, University of Toronto, Canada

The study is based on data collected in 1998 in Fuqing. In our study, we explore the pattern of destination locations among emigrant families. In addition, we explore how family characteristics shape the pattern. Despite the fact that a large number of Chinese emigrants have settled in different parts of the world legally and illegally in the previous decades, limited research has been done on the pattern of their destinations. We believe this is the first systematic study on the topic for emigrants from China.

Social network, social capital and domestic violence: comparing marriage migrants with locally-born women
Susanne Y. P. Choi, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

How does network participation and access to social support and social control affect domestic violence? Data from a survey comparing marriage migrants with locally-born women in Hong Kong show that marriage migrants face a significantly higher risk of physical and sexual violence from their male partners than locally-born women. They also had significantly lower levels of network participation, social support and social control. The husbands of foreign wives are likewise an isolated group compared with husbands of locally-born women. Our findings suggest that whilst the social support and soical control enjoyed by husbands is associated with significantly reduced odds of wife abuse, the participation of husbands in family and friendship networks were associated with significantly increased odds of wife abuse. The odds of wife verbal and sexual abuse were increased among women who participated more frequently in family, friend and neighbour networks.

Neither Here Nor There: Household Organization and Re-organization of Rural-Urban Migrants in China
Cindy Fan, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Drawing from the biographies of households in Sichuan and Anhui from three waves of interviews in 1995, 2005 and 2009, I argue that rural-urban migrants in China use household organization and reorganization as strategies to satisfy their family responsibilities while simultaneously engaging in migrant work. Such organization and reorganization entail spatial and gender division of labor, circular migration, as well as frequent changes in who does migrant work and who stays behind. Split households are a common outcome, so is a weak intention to settle down permanently in cities. Migrants straddling the city and the countryside may enable them to augment income and at the same time maintain a rural economic and social support system, but left-behind wives, left-behind children, left-behind elderly, and migrant children who have only limited access to urban education, are increasingly defining the demographic and social fabric of rural Chinese.

Voices of Early Taiwanese-Chinese Immigrants in Canada and Guam
Nora Chiang, National Taiwan University,

The United States and Canada rank first and second respectively as the most popular destinations for Taiwanese-Chinese immigrants. Recently, literature on Taiwanese-Chinese migrants has tended to focus on the new immigrants who have arrived since the 1980's -- but may not be staying permanently in their host countries -- and have adopted a transnational residence pattern which requires them to engage in two or more social fields. Using autobiographical interviews, the author reconstructs the life of the interviewees to reflect the experiences, values and attitudes of early Taiwanese-Chinese immigrants. The major research questions pertain to reasons and processes of migration, lived experiences, self-identity, and reasons for staying/not returning to Taiwan. Twenty-two Taiwanese-Chinese immigrants in Guam and thirty-five immigrants in Canada have been selected from the author's fieldwork in 2008-2011 for this study. Arriving in the 60's and 70's, the early immigrants lived through hardships of various kinds, established businesses from which they earned a steady income. Diligence, ingenuity and perseverance served them well in their achievements, and skills in entrepreneurship and social capital were brought with them from Taiwan to Canada and Guam. As well-educated and young professionals at the time of immigration, often re-migrating from another country, they have developed good language and social skills/local knowledge in Canada and Guam, and have made lots of 'native' friends over the years. For many second generation Taiwanese-Chinese, they have pursued tertiary education and found marriage partners in the host countries. The Taiwanese-Chinese of Canada and Guam have become 'permanent settlers' in both countries-- some have even retired and remained in the host country, and have enjoyed the multi-cultural environment.