Contemporary Chinese America

Contemporary Chinese America: Immigration, Ethnicity, and Community Transformation

Min Zhou
Foreword by Alejandro Portes
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Contemporary Chinese America
    Book Description:

    Contemporary Chinese Americais the most comprehensive sociological investigation of the experiences of Chinese immigrants to the United States-and of their offspring-in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The author, Min Zhou, is a well-known sociologist of the Chinese American experience. In this volume she collects her original research on a range of subjects, including the causes and consequences of emigration from China, demographic trends of Chinese Americans, patterns of residential mobility in the U.S., Chinese American "ethnoburbs," immigrant entrepreneurship, ethnic enclave economies, gender and work, Chinese language media, Chinese schools, and intergenerational relations. The concluding chapter, "Rethinking Assimilation," ponders the future for Chinese Americans. Also included are an extensive bibliography and a list of recommended documentary films.

    While the book is particularly well-suited for college courses in Chinese American studies, ethnic studies, Asian studies, and immigration studies, it will interest anyone who wants to more fully understand the lived experience of contemporary Chinese Americans.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-859-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Alejandro Portes

    It is commonly noted in the contemporary immigration literature in the United States that Asians are the fastest-growing segment of the foreign-born population. It is usually added that Asian immigrants, by virtue of their high levels of education and professional/entrepreneurial skills, do very well in the American labor market and usually reach middle- and even upper-class status in the course of one or two generations. Less emphasized are the great diversity of the Asian population and the fact that the positive characteristics associated with them are actually due to a few major groups, notably the Chinese. Even less often remarked...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction: A Personal Reflection on the Study of Chinatown and Beyond
    (pp. 1-20)

    This book draws on and develops my previously published work on the multifaceted Chinese America of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. My research on Chinese immigration and the Chinese American community began in the mid-1980s, when I was a graduate student at the University at Albany (formerly the State University of New York at Albany). Chinatown became my subject of study because of the circumstances of my own migration. I was intrigued by the Chinatown scene when I first arrived in New York City from China in the fall of 1984. Prior to that date I had never...

  7. PART I Historical and Global Contexts
    • 1 The Chinese Diaspora and International Migration
      (pp. 23-40)

      Chinese America is a part of the Greater Chinese Diaspora. International migration among Chinese people is centuries old: long before European colonists set foot on the Asian continent, the Chinese moved across sea and land, seasonally or permanently, to other parts of Asia and the rest of the world to earn a living and support their families. In this chapter I offer a historical overview of Chinese emigration as a basis for understanding contemporary Chinese immigration to the United States.

      History has witnessed distinct patterns of emigration from China to the outside world and from Chinese diasporic communities to other...

  8. PART II Immigration, Demographic Trends, and Community Dynamics
    • 2 Demographic Trends and Characteristics of Contemporary Chinese America
      (pp. 43-54)

      The United States has the largest ethnic Chinese population outside Asia. Chinese Americans are also the oldest and largest Asian-origin group in the United States. Their long history of migration and settlement dates back to the late 1840s and includes more than 60 years of legal exclusion. With the lifting of legal barriers to Chinese immigration after World War II and the enactment of liberal immigration legislation beginning with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 (the Hart-Celler Act), the Chinese American community has increased 13-fold: from 237,000 in 1960 to 1.6 million in 1990 and...

    • 3 In and Out of Chinatown: Residential Segregation and Mobility among Chinese Immigrants in New York City
      (pp. 55-76)

      New York City has the second-largest concentration of Chinese Americans in urban America. Its Chinatown has always been a distinctly contiguous geographic locality in which Chinese immigrants cluster. While other ethnic communities, such as Little Italy across the street, have dwindled, Chinatown has survived for more than a century and a half and has grown into a full-fledged immigrant community based on a solid organizational structure and a thriving enclave economy. Yet even though contemporary Chinese immigrants retain a strong desire to maintain their own language and culture, they are much less likely to live in ethnic enclaves than their...

    • 4 Suburbanization and New Trends in Community Development: The Case of Chinese Ethnoburbs in the San Gabriel Valley, California
      (pp. 77-96)
      Yen-Fen Tseng and Rebecca Y. Kim

      Classic assimilation theories have long stressed the transitory nature of ethnically distinct urban enclaves as springboards for immigrants’ eventual integration into the mainstream. New York’s Little Italy and Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo are well-known examples of spatial assimilation, places where immigrants toiled to enable their children to “melt” into suburbia and become “indistinguishably” American. In the past three decades, however, this classic urban-to-suburban residential mobility model has been challenged.¹ America’s largest metropolitan regions have witnessed trends of suburbanization not simply among native-born non-Hispanic whites but also among racial/ethnic minorities. The latter trend—the direct insertion of large numbers of new...

  9. PART III The Organizational Structure of the Ethnic Enclave
    • 5 Immigrant Entrepreneurship and the Enclave Economy: The Case of New York City’s Chinatown
      (pp. 99-122)

      Ethnic entrepreneurship as a social phenomenon has long fascinated social scientists and stimulated considerable research and debate. Ethnic entrepreneurs are overrepresented among first-generation immigrants. These entrepreneurs are often referred to simultaneously as owners and managers (or operators) of their own businesses. Their chosen occupations are tied to their ethnic group membership, and they are often known to outsiders as having a cultural inclination for business ownership. More importantly, they are embedded in particular social structures that constrain individual behavior, social relations, and economic transactions.¹ To the lay person, the idea of an ethnic entrepreneur often evokes images of petty traders,...

    • 6 Chinese-Language Media in the United States
      (pp. 123-147)

      Chinese-language newspapers, television, and radio are infl uential ethnic institutions, pillars of Chinese diasporic communities around the world.¹ Recently, the Internet has joined these traditional media. In the United States, the upsurge of Chinese-language media in the past few decades mirrors the linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity of the Chinese immigrant community, its vibrant enclave economy, and its multifaceted ethnic life. The New York–basedWorld Journal, also known as theChinese Daily News(世界日报), the U.S. edition of the Hong Kong–basedSing Tao Daily(星岛日报), and the New York–basedChina Press(侨报) are among the largest-circulation and...

    • 7 Chinese Schools and the Ethnic System of Supplementary Education
      (pp. 148-166)

      Chinese schools have long been an integral part of the organizational structure of Chinatowns in the United States as well as in the Chinese Diaspora worldwide. In this chapter I examine how a particular type of ethnic organization generates resources conducive to educational success. By looking specifically into Chinese schools in Los Angeles’ Chinese immigrant community, I also unfold an ethnic system of supplementary education that not only offers tangible academic support but also reinforces cultural norms pushing immigrant children to succeed in school.¹

      The 2000 U.S. Census shows that nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S.- born Chinese Americans between...

  10. PART IV The Family and the New Second Generation
    • 8 The Other Half of the Sky: Immigrant Women in Chinatown’s Enclave Economy
      (pp. 169-186)

      ''Women hold up half of the sky.” This saying accurately describes the role of women in the enclave economy in New York City’s Chinatown. Most often than not, when people think of Chinese laborers in the United States, they imagine railroad workers, miners, hand laundrymen, or restaurant waiters and cooks. Women were seldom seen in the old Chinatowns, and past studies of Chinese immigration and adaptation to life in the United States often overlooked women, even as they began to arrive in large numbers after the passage of the Hart-Celler Act of 1965. There was scant recognition that the experience...

    • 9 Negotiating Culture and Ethnicity: Intergenerational Relations in Chinese Immigrant Families
      (pp. 187-201)

      Intergenerational relations in Chinese immigrant families are characterized by conflict, coping, and reconciliation. In the United States, most children of Chinese immigrants live in two-parent nuclear families, with a smaller number in extended or transnational families. In these various immigrant households, a modified version of Confucian values emphasizing fi lial piety, education, hard work, and discipline serves as a normative behavioral standard for socializing the younger generation. Many immigrant parents feel that they have made sacrifi ces so that their children can have a better future in America. They have clearly articulated expectations that their children will attain the highest...

    • 10 “Parachute Kids” in Southern California: The Educational Experience of Chinese Children in Transnational Families
      (pp. 202-218)

      These stories of Chinese adolescents on their own in the United States sound dramatic, but they are not simply the products of media sensationalism. The phenomenon is real and increasingly visible in the immigrantconcentrated ethnoburbs of southern California, where it has drawn special attention from public school administrators, teachers, and the press. The children involved are known as “parachute kids”-a highly select group of young people, aged 8 to 17, who have arrived in the United States to seek a better education in American elementary, middle, or high schools. This education, their parents believe, will give them an advantage in...

  11. PART V The Future of Chinese America
    • 11 Rethinking Assimilation: The Paradox of “Model Minority” and “Perpetual Foreigner”
      (pp. 221-236)

      These vignettes are suggestive of the varied nature of assimilation in American life. Is Leung assimilated? Arguably not. He still cannot speak English after several decades of living in the United States, and his social life has continued to be confined to Chinatown, even after he has retired into a white middle-class suburb. However, he has raised his five children to be quintessential Americans who are also practicing the longstanding Chinese tradition of supporting their elderly parents.

      Are Li and Xia assimilated? Arguably yes. But after they have made it by all observable measures-English proficiency, college education, professional occupation, suburban...

  12. Appendix: Recommended Films on the Chinese American Experience
    (pp. 237-238)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 239-272)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-298)
  15. Index
    (pp. 299-310)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 311-312)