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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cities in the age of global migration : integration of mainland Chinese in Vancouver, Canada Feng, Lisi


Since the late 1990s, the People’s Republic of China has emerged as the largest source of foreign students, tourists, skilled and low-skilled workers for the Pacific cities and regions. Upon arrival, the ‘new’ Chinese migrants have to carve out a place for themselves, which entails more than looking for jobs and shelter. In particular, they find themselves in a social milieu shaped by both new and long-established Chinese groups in the receiving places. Using migration flows between Mainland China and Vancouver as a case study, I explore specific processes and mechanisms that directly shape the diversity of migrant integration experiences and the variegated relations between migrant integration and the socioeconomic and spatial transformation of the Vancouver region. Specifically, I seek to understand how certain political economic characteristics of place (in terms of economic structures, political cultures, processes and institutions) have hindered and facilitated the livelihood production of migrant groups in multifaceted ways. Two methodological approaches inform my study: comparative historical analysis and agency-structure linkage. I argue that specific historical trajectory of urban development in localities in China and Vancouver offer very different structures of opportunities that enable individual migrant families to build different human capacity, hence, their capacity to adapt to a new life when they move from place to place. Group differences challenge the taken-for-granted claims of ‘Chineseness’ and the stale concept of ‘Chinese community’ in public debates and policy-making. By placing the multiplicity of Mainland Chinese experiences at the centre of my research, I have opened up new lines of theorizing about the substantive meaning of integration as opposed to providing definitive answers to when and how to achieve integration. The impossibility of presenting a coherent, unified trajectory through which one settles down with a definitive sense of belonging attests to the complexity and precariousness of migrant integration.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada