Thursday, 17 April 2008

The great migration of China

Slate recently published an excellent series of articles from rural China.

The beauty of these stories is that they provide the missing pieces between economic articles that take vast microeconomic datasets and often come up with some counter-intuitive findings and what is actually happening on the ground. There is also a good "China-US" migration history lesson thrown in.

The hard-working US based Chinese and their exported babies is something I was simply unaware of. After the standard journalistic introduction using some specific story telling example to suck us in we get to the meat.

China's Great Migration [Slate]

The overwhelming majority of Chinese who have emigrated to the United States over the past 20 years come from a handful of counties around Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province, which lies along the banks of the Min River, just across the strait from Taiwan. Seeking better economic opportunities, the Fujianese fled their farms and fishing villages throughout the 1990s and took circuitous—and often illegal—journeys to America. In 1994, then-CIA Director James Woolsey estimated that as many as 100,000 Chinese were entering the country illegally every year. That figure was probably a little high, and the exact numbers are impossible to tabulate. But you get the idea.

The Fujianese are known for their work ethic and entrepreneurial zeal, and the new arrivals fanned across the United States and started businesses. That generic Chinese restaurant in the strip mall near your house? Almost certainly run by Fujianese. Those no-frills "Chinatown buses" that initially linked Eastern seaboard cities and now rival Greyhound, crisscrossing the continent? A Fujianese innovation.

The Fujianese in America work so hard, in fact, that when they have babies—babies who, by virtue of being born on American soil, are U.S. citizens—they don't have time to raise them. So, they send the babies home, back to the very villages the parents left, to be raised by their grandparents. The babies sitting around me—who begin screaming in unison as the plane nears Fuzhou and begins its descent—are packing something that many of their chaperones lack: U.S. passports.

1 comment:

Bill said...

And in 18 years, US is going to receive a load of 18 year old American citizens wanting to go to US univeristies, with very little knowledge of America to survive in the US.