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New Chinese Diasporas in Europe

Identity Formation and Social Integration: Creating and Imagining the Chinese Community in Prague, the Czech Republic

Adam Horalek, Ter-hsing James Cheng, and Liyan Hu Introduction

The Chinese community in Prague is fairly new, established more or less after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, with next to no history in the communist era. Despite its small size, it is still the second largest Chinese community in the Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs1) after that in Budapest and is worth studying for at least two major reasons. First, for the last decade, its size has remained stable, though its internal composition has changed significantly. In general, the community is not settled, has little communal life or communal areas within the city (e.g., a Chinatown), and is demographically, economically and socially diverse despite its relatively compact place of origin. The increased interest of

A. Horalek (*)

University of Pardubice, Pardubice, Czech Republic T.-h.J. Cheng

Soochow University, Taipei, Taiwan L. Hu

Tongji University, Shanghai, China © The Author(s) 2017

M. Zhou (ed.), Contemporary Chinese Diasporas, DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-5595-9_12

Chinese tourists and investors in Prague may, however, result in a reassessment of the goals and future of the community. In general, the development of the Chinese community in Prague is unique and differs greatly from that of similar communities in Western and Southern Europe, the USA and elsewhere outside the CEECs. The second reason for studying Chinese in Prague is that it can serve as a case study to understand general trends in Chinese migration to the CEECs. Even though the founding of contemporary Chinese communities there in the early 1990s differed from place to place, the timing, longitudinal development, general motivation factors, place of origin and so forth are not unlike those in other CEECs.

The unprecedented human flow into Europe during the present “refugee crisis” may change the whole migration policy of the European Union (EU) and especially the stereotyping of “us” and “them.” The terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015 suggested that it was necessary to question the sustainability of the EU’s security policy, multicultural values and welcoming of immigration. Czechia and other post-socialist members of the EU are continuously portrayed as conservative and immigrationnegative countries with a much smaller share of foreign nationals in their populations than their Western counterparts. Recent events will not foster any change in this direction and may result in further restrictions on migration to Czechia, including by Chinese.2

In the 1990s and the early 2000s, Czech Chinese were the focus of intensive scholarly research, predominantly by orientalists and sinologists (Bakesova 1996a, b; Obuchova 1999, 2001, 2002; Moore 2002; Moore and Tubilewicz 2001). However, there was little study from a demographic, geographic or sociological perspective, mostly because of the language barrier (cf. Cermak and Dzurova 2008). Since 2003 there have been almost no further publications from any perspective. One reason is that the Chinese community has stagnated. Even so, the stagnation is not the equivalent of homogeneity or consolidation. The group remains incoherent, non-settled, non-identified, non-evolved and pioneering. Most studies on Asian immigrants in Czechia focus on Vietnamese as the largest non-European foreign community in the country, so a major aim of this study is to widen the focus. The first part carries out a statistical analysis of the Chinese community in Czechia and in Prague between 1989 and 2013 in the framework of historical circumstances, geopolitical changes, globalization, migration and ethnic development. As we demonstrate in the last section, the Vietnamese and Chinese communities develop in different ways, have different strategies and constitute different communities. Still, as Chinese are usually assumed to be dominant (owing to their worldwide demographic dominance), Vietnamese are often seen as Chinese from the Czechs’ orientalized perspective. The later parts of the chapter delve deeper into the Chinese community, aiming to explain its internal heterogeneity and behavioral specifics, and its patterns of adaptation and integration from an intergenerational perspective.3

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