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Are Chinese Immigrants Becoming More Nationalistic Towards Their Sending Country or Their Host Country?

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Emerging at the turn of the twentieth century, overseas Chinese nationalism played an important part in the evolution of the overseas Chinese community and modern history of China. It is generally held that overseas Chinese nationalism had died out and had become ‘a historical phenomenon’ by the 1950s, when the China-centered allegiance of the overseas Chinese was replaced by a local-oriented identity. The fundamental change of the Chinese diasporic communities over the last two decades, however, has put this conventional wisdom into contestation.

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After the Civil War, immigrants again began to stream to the United States. Between 1870 and 1900, nearly 12 million immigrants arrived--more foreign-born people than had come to the country in the preceding 70 years. During the 1870s and 1880s, the majority came from Germany, Ireland, and England--the principal source of immigration before the Civil War. Even so, a relatively large group of Chinese immigrated to the United States between the start of the California gold rush in 1849 and 1882, when federal law stopped their immigration. While the majority of immigrants came to settle in the United States permanently, many worked for a time and returned home with whatever savings they had set aside from their work. The majority of Chinese immigrants, for example, were single men who worked for a while and returned home. At first, they were attracted to North America by the gold rush in California. Many prospected for gold on their own or labored for other miners. Soon, many opened their own businesses such as restaurants, laundries, and other personal service concerns. After the gold rush, Chinese immigrants worked as agricultural laborers, on railroad construction crews throughout the West, and in low-paying industrial jobs.

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Migration is a very multifaceted term, as it includes all types of voluntary as well as forced movements of a population (UNDP, 2009). A number of demographic, economic, sociocultural and psychological issues influences the nature, pattern, and direction of voluntary human migration, while forced migrations are the result of civil war, political and ethnic persecution, famine and environmental disasters. Human migration is not a new phenomenon, it goes back to the earliest periods of human history. People have moved across communities and countries for centuries. Migration brings opportunities and creates new challenges to not only the migrants but also to the home and host societies. The world is presently going through a third wave of large-scale human migration. In that first wave up to 1914, nearly 10 percent of the population of the world moved from one country to another, mostly from one continent to another. The second wave of human migration started after the Second World War, caused by massive destruction and the redrawing of state boundaries, particularly in Europe. The present and third wave is a combination of both voluntary and forced migration composed of a large section of the world population. In this wave, many more are not only migrating to other countries in search of jobs and better livelihood, but they are also moving in significant numbers to newly developing regions. A large number of people, who are forced out of their living place because of war, armed conflicts or natural disasters, are finding it difficult to move out of their countries due to restrictive migration receiving policies imposed by many countries, so there has been a substantial increase in the number of internally displaced people (Ashok Swain, 1996).

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As can be seen, abundant research has documented that harsher enforcement and rising deportation have not increased the rate of “self-deportation,” but instead have lowered the rate of return migration among the undocumented to record lows. A permanent undocumented population of 11 million can only bring a host of social and economic problems, ones that will worsen the longer an appropriate policy response is deferred.

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Ashok Swain, “Environmental migration and conflict dynamics: focus on developing regions”, Third World Quarterly, 17 (5), 1996, pp. 959-73.

IOM, World Migration Report, 2018, Geneva: International Organization for Migration, 2017.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Human Development Report 2009, Overcoming Barriers: Human Mobility and Development. UNDP and Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2009.

OECD , International Migration Outlook 2018, OECD Publishing, Paris, 2018

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Are Chinese Immigrants Becoming More Nationalistic Towards Their Sending Country or Their Host Country?
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