Emigration from China in Comparative Perspective

Lu, Yao; Liang, Zai; Chunyu, Miao

Comparative research on international migration has increasingly focused on immigrant integration rather than the process of emigration. By investigating the different streams of Chinese migration to the United States and Europe, as well as the different stages of Chinese migration to the United States, this study examines the way in which both receiving and sending contexts combine to shape the process of emigration. Using data from a 2002–2003 survey of emigration from China's Fujian Province, we demonstrate that under restrictive exit and entry policies and high barriers to migration (i.e., clandestine migration from Fuzhou to the United States), resources such as migrant social capital, political capital (cadre resources), and human capital all play a crucial role in the emigration process. However, the roles of these resources in the migration process are limited when migration barriers are sufficiently low and when local governments adopt proactive policies promoting emigration (i.e., legal migration from Mingxi to Europe). Comparisons over time suggest that the importance of migrant social capital, political capital, and human capital has strongly persisted for Fuzhou-US emigration, as a result of tightening exit and entry policies. Despite these marked differences between Fuzhou and Mingxi emigration, the results also point to two general processes that are highly consistent across settings and over time—the cumulative causation of migration and the advantage conferred by traditional positional power (cadre status).


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September 30, 2015