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Edited by Iredale R. Robyn and Guo Fei

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Yeqing Huang and Fei Guo

The concept of social exclusion has been widely applied to explain the marginalization of rural–urban migrants in contemporary China, yet aspects of migrants’ own perceptions of their identity have received little attention. This chapter examines some of the underlying mechanisms of social exclusion in contemporary Chinese urban society by deconstructing perceived boundaries between rural–urban migrants and local urbanites. Qualitative analysis of data collected from a rural village in central China suggest that migrants’ identities are shaped and reshaped by their hukou and employment status, home ownership and social network. These factors are interwoven, leading to more than one identity in migrants’ narrative discourses. Most survey respondents, when asked to choose either a rural or an urban identity, were ambivalent, indicating apparently blurry identity boundaries. The findings highlight an intertwining effect of institutional and market forces in the process of rural–urban migrants’ identity formation and transformation in urban China.

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Yu Zhu, Baoyu Xiao and Liyue Lin

This chapter uses data from the 2010 and 2000 population censuses to examine changing spatial and temporal patterns of China’s floating population and their implications for understanding internal migration in China. The results suggest that the size of the floating population continued to increase with fast speed in the period between the two censuses, with coastal provinces in eastern China as their main receiving areas and inland provinces (especially those in central China) as their main source areas. The results also indicate that the proportion of the floating population absorbed by the eastern region declined in the years leading to the 2010 census, suggesting a shrinking migration flow to the eastern part of China. In the meantime, while the Pearl-River Delta region and the Yangtze River Delta region continued to be the two most important destination areas of China’s floating population, their relative position has changed, with the Yangtze River Delta region overtaking the Pearl-River Delta region to become the biggest receiving area of the floating population. In terms of temporal migration patterns of the floating population, the results suggest that short-term migrants still constituted the majority of the floating population, suggesting that their unsettled and unstable nature had not changed much, and that there is still a long way to go for them to settle down, either in their current or future places of destination or their place of origin. The chapter finally suggests that these temporal and spatial patterns of the floating population has important implications for understanding migrants’ identity, their future development and their impact on both sending and receiving areas.

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Dawid Wladyka and Ricard Morén-Alegret

Recent European research on diversity indicates that neighbourhoods’ spatial and social tissue is influential on inter-ethnic interactions. Additionally, studies based on the Conflict and Contact theories as well as researches based on the ‘superdiversity’ theoretical proposal underscore the contradictory outcomes which diversity may provide regarding the development of local communities. While ethnic diversity within some economic sectors has been observed as empowering social cohesion and economic development, some ways of managing diversity in the public realm have been found to be an obstacle. Chinese immigration to Barcelona increased visibly in the twenty-first century. In the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood registered foreign immigrants were roughly 18 per cent of the total population in 2013, according to the National Statistical Institute (INE). This is similar to the Barcelona average rate. Chinese residents were the most numerous foreign residents in the neighbourhood, followed by Italians and Peruvians. This chapter presents local perceptions on Chinese immigrants and their footprint on the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood’s social and economic sustainability. It is based on results extracted from the analysis of various semi-structured interviews with natives and immigrants, supplemented by the analysis of statistical and documental sources. The results show that Chinese residents’ purchasing power could provide an opportunity for empowering (or improving?) the neighbourhood’s development but the wariness of other residents towards Chinese hampers such a possibility. Unjustified rumors, a lack of local authorities’ involvement and the economic downturn have been observed as escalating conflicting attitudes towards Chinese and limiting mutual collaboration. What impact has this had on the identity of the Chinese? Have they clung together more, strengthened their Chineseness? Relied on other Chinese more? Kept close links to China?

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Weiwei Zhang and John R. Logan

This chapter focuses on the Chinese population in the United States, which predominantly consists of first generation immigrants despite the long history of Chinese immigration in this country. We identify several important features of this population. First, its rapid growth, from less than a quarter million in 1960 (of whom a majority in fact were born in the US) to over 4 million in 2012 (60% foreign-born). Second, we look at the strong regional concentration. Almost entirely a West Coast population in the nineteenth century, nearly half of Chinese still live in the West, and about a quarter in the Northeast. The pattern is changing slowly, with some notable growth in the South. Third, the relatively high socio-economic status of this minority group, similar on average to other Asian immigrants, and outperforming non-Hispanic whites on some measures is examined. However a notable feature of Chinese in America, quite unlike other racial/ethnic groups, is its polarization – large shares with very high and very low incomes. These extremes reflect differences in immigrant origins, timing of arrival, and the conditions under which they entered the country. Finally we call attention to settlement patterns within the four metropolitan regions with the largest number of Chinese residents, emphasizing their high level of suburbanization, separation from other groups, and location in relatively advantaged enclaves in both cities and suburbs.

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Fei Guo and Robyn R. Iredale

China’s internal migration is often compared to international migration in the sense that internal migrants are subject to substantial institutional constraints similar to crossing national boundaries. In addition, the identity adaptation and formation process of China’s rural–urban migrants shares many similarities with that of international migrants. By including studies of both internal and international migrations in one volume, it is hoped that more accessible references could be made available in one place to readers who are not only interested in China’s internal migration and international migration but also appreciate their comparative aspects. The conclusion summarizes the major trends and looks ahead to emerging issues. Internally, we can expect significant institutional changes that will affect the scale, directions and impacts of migration. These changes have the potential to improve the status, livelihood and wellbeing of migrants. Rural left-behind village communities stand to make considerable gains as more efforts are directed at loosening the institutional regulations that are holding back agricultural development. Tapping the potential development impacts of internal migrants returning to villages will lead to major improvements in rural areas. Internationally the relationship between China and its diasporas has already changed and intensified so that mainland-centred Chinese modernity exploits the diasporas for ‘capitalist knowledge and mutual self-interest in pursuit of global superpower status’ (Ang 2013, p. 29). If just a small proportion of overseas Chinese participate in this partnership, as appears to be the case, China will continue to grow and flourish economically. How this translates into political transformation is difficult to predict.

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Zhiming Cheng, Ingrid Nielsen and Russell Smyth

This study has three purposes. The first is to examine the determinants of wage arrears among rural–urban migrants in China. The second is to examine the effect of wage arrears on economic wellbeing as proxied by wages. The third is to examine how experiencing wage arrears affects several subjective indicators of wellbeing, such as feelings of belongingness and discrimination in the city. To examine the determinants of wage arrears and its implications for socio-economic wellbeing, we employ pooled data from a unique representative dataset collected in Guangdong province, one of the major destinations for migrants in China, for the years 2006, 2008 and 2009. We find that in 2006 9 per cent of the sample reported wage arrears and that this figure fell to 6 per cent in 2008 and 7 per cent in 2009. Males were more likely to experience wage arrears as were those working for private firms and micro-entrepreneurs, relative to those working for government agencies. Those with a labour contract, those who were a member of a trade union and those who had a trade union in the workplace were less likely to experience wage arrears. Those experiencing wage arrears received 3.8 per cent higher monthly wages, were 11.4 per cent more likely to perceive that life was difficult in the city, were 6.8 per cent more likely to perceive that their status was lower than others in the city and were 5.6 per cent more likely to believe life would be easier with a non-agricultural household registration.

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Kam Wing Chan

This paper presents a retrospective analysis of China’s hukou (household registration) system in the last five decades since its promulgation, reviewing the history of that system from a broad socio-political perspective. More specifically, the paper focuses on revealing trends in the development of the system over time and identifying many of its important ramifications for modern Chinese society, as well as on the impact of hukou on the country’s industrialization, urbanization, rural–urban migration, and social and spatial stratification. The author argues that the hukou system now presents a major obstacle to China’s quest to become a modern, First World nation and global leader.

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Elaine Lynn-Ee Ho

This chapter compares two distinct phases of diaspora engagement in Mainland China. Historically China has encouraged co-ethnics abroad to retain their ties to the ancestral homeland while simultaneously assimilating into their countries of immigration. Nonetheless, during 1949–1979 the Chinese state accepted successive cohorts of co-ethnics fleeing forced migration circumstances in Southeast Asia. Rather than categorizing them as refugees (nanqiao), China considered them returnees (guiqiao) and resettled them in state-owned farms even though many were diasporic descendants that had not lived in the ancestral homeland before. The policy was arguably motivated at that time by what the Chinese state considered its geopolitical claims to ethnic affinity with co-ethnics abroad. In comparison, China’s diaspora engagement today is focused more on the economic benefits to be derived from the human and financial capital represented by its co-ethnics abroad and their potential return migration. This is reflected in the programs developed as part of China’s diaspora strategy to court business and scientific knowledge in the Chinese diaspora. The initiatives today are also more likely to be targeted at highly skilled emigrants that left China after the 1980s. However, the contemporary diaspora strategy neglects other types of returnees, such as the ‘middling’ category that have difficulty finding jobs after spending a period of time abroad. They are referred to derogatorily in Chinese parlance as haidai (seaweed), an extension of an earlier label ‘haigui’ (sea turtles) used to describe returnees. By juxtaposing these two phases of Chinese policy towards diaspora engagement and their outcomes, this chapter thus critically examines the politics of emigration and return migration in China.

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Yue Zhuo and Zai Liang

China’s rural-to-urban migration during the past few decades is the largest in human history and has also had tremendous social and economic consequences. Although much is known about the causes and economic consequences of this migration, we know relatively very little about the impact of migration on the wellbeing of the elderly in rural China. Utilizing data from a national survey, this chapter examines the associations between adult children’s migration and multiple dimensions of the elderly wellbeing in rural China. The results show that the rural elderly with migrant children received more money from children than those without migrant children. They were also more likely to live in better quality houses. But living arrangements did not significantly differ between the two groups. Having migrant children was linked to better health status but lower levels of life satisfaction. The findings are suggestive of a multidimensional framework for research on migration and the left behind. The policy implications are also discussed.