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The New Chinese America

The New Chinese America: Class, Economy, and Social Hierarchy

Xiaojian Zhao
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The New Chinese America
    Book Description:

    The 1965 Immigration Act altered the lives and outlook of Chinese Americans in fundamental ways.The New Chinese Americaexplores the historical, economic, and social foundations of the Chinese American community, in order to reveal the emergence of a new social hierarchy after 1965.

    In this detailed and comprehensive study of contemporary Chinese America, Xiaojian Zhao uses class analysis to illuminate the difficulties of everyday survival for poor and undocumented immigrants and analyzes the process through which social mobility occurs. Through ethnic ties, Chinese Americans have built an economy of their own in which entrepreneurs can maintain a competitive edge given their access to low-cost labor; workers who are shut out of the mainstream job market can find work and make a living; and consumers can enjoy high quality services at a great bargain. While the growth of the ethnic economy enhances ethnic bonds by increasing mutual dependencies among different groups of Chinese Americans, it also determines the limits of possibility for various individuals depending on their socioeconomic and immigration status.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4912-5
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Rethinking Chinese America
    (pp. 1-16)

    Schools were in full session in late April. Tests were scheduled and papers and projects were due soon. But few graduating seniors with college admissions in hand would let schoolwork spoil their celebratory mood. The air was filled with a palpable excitement. The few weeks ahead would be about proms, graduations, and gatherings reaffirming friendships before bidding farewell.

    Within the Chinese American community, excitement was mixed with high anxiety over the mysterious college admissions process. The success (or failure in some cases) of the soon-to-be-college students prompted many questions from parents with younger children: Why was a particular student accepted...

  6. Chapter 1 Contemporary Chinese American Population: The Documented and the Invisible
    (pp. 17-38)

    Yamei Zhu was born in 1963 in Shanghai, China’s most populous city. An only child, she was pampered by her parents. After high school, Yamei got a job at a transportation company and worked her way up to become its controller. She married an electrician in 1988 and moved in with her in-laws. “My father said that he wouldn’t let me marry unless it was into a good family,” recalled Yamei. “When he found out that we had to share the same room with my in-laws—a curtain was used for privacy—and there was no indoor plumbing, his eyes...

  7. Chapter 2 Drawing Lines of Class Distinction
    (pp. 39-73)

    As she reflected on her ten-month tryout as a member of a Chinese Presbyterian church in Houston in late 1994 and early 1995, Min reminisced about a rather uncomfortable experience that led to her departure. She was thirty-five then and recently divorced. After living in Atlanta, Georgia, for five years, she wanted to leave the past behind and start anew. Working at a furniture store six days a week, she volunteered her time at the church, helped organize a big Thanksgiving party, and spent countless hours on Christmas decorations. She was eager to make friends. Before Easter, however, she stopped....

  8. Chapter 3 “Serve the People”: The Ethnic Economy
    (pp. 74-101)

    World War II triggered the greatest social changes the Chinese American community had ever seen. Back home in San Francisco after three years of naval service that took him to several European cities, Jimmy Leong was restless. “My father expected me to help out in the garment shop, but my mother knew that my heart was not [in it]. Imagine: I had spent the first twenty years of my life, right up until the start of the war, living in Chinatown. I missed home badly while I was away. Now I was back again, but I couldn’t stand it any...

  9. Chapter 4 The “Spirit of Changle”: Constructing a Regional Identity
    (pp. 102-131)

    Most of the signs for the Chinese American associations in New York’s Chinatown are permanently carved on stone walls or tiled on huge buildings with Chinese architectural touches, to signify their long history and prominence in their community as well as their control over land and buildings. The eye-catching awning of the Changle American Association (CAA) on Chatham Square, at the tip of East Broadway, in contrast, points to the organization’s youth—it was established in 1998—and suggests that the office space is leased. Located on the second floor of 2 East Broadway, the headquarters of the CAA is...

  10. Chapter 5 Surviving Poverty in an Ethnic Social Hierarchy
    (pp. 132-159)

    Baoshan Li, a stocky, self-employed construction worker in his mid-thirties, gained permanent resident status under the 1992 Chinese Student Protection Act. Nevertheless, he has not gathered the courage to apply for U.S. citizenship: the thought of being questioned by non-Chinese immigration officials is too intimidating. After twenty years in the United States, Li knows very little English, and he speaks Mandarin with a strong Cantonese accent. For that reason he is not entirely independent. Highly skilled in wood floor and ceramic tile installations, he gets work through Bob, the owner of a company selling carpet, wood flooring, and ceramic tiles....

  11. Conclusion: Inclusion or Exclusion?
    (pp. 160-166)

    November 2008 was unusually cold. New York was hit by a heavy snowstorm, adding extra chill to the economic downturn. The nation’s job market suffered the largest one-month drop since 1974 with the loss of a staggering 530,000 positions.¹ A recession, which had started in the prior year, would soon be declared by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The national economic crisis, however, did not seem to have had a direct impact on the influx of undocumented Chinese immigrants. At least one thousand newcomers arrived in Manhattan’s Chinatown before Thanksgiving, forming large crowds in front of employment agencies on...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 167-184)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 185-192)
  14. Index
    (pp. 193-201)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 202-202)