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New Chinese Migration

Only in the 1970s did migration to Spain from mainland China, particularly Qingtian and Wenzhou, in Zhejiang, begin to pick up again. In 1973, Spain and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) established diplomatic relations. In 1975, Chen Diguang, a Qingtianese whose father lived in Spain, became the first migrant to go directly from the PRC to Spain. In the following years a couple of Zhejiangese with relatives in Spain obtained permission to emigrate there. After that, emigration to Spain surged.

Why the surge? Many studies have explored the general reasons (Antolin 1998; Li 1999; Nieto 2003; Thun0 1999). Here I focus on the special case of Spain and try to update my data to the 2010s, exploring how the interaction of push and pull factors shaped the migration.

Reopening the Chinese Emigration Door and Its Consequences in Zhejiang

According to migration theories based on what is often conveniently summarized as “traditional neoclassical economics,” international migration is a response to differentials in incomes between countries of origin and destination (Massey et al. 1994: 708-711). Dreams of getting rich, high expectations and imagination have pushed people to emigrate despite the ethnic and cultural differences they encounter. China’s reforms have greatly raised the expectations of Chinese people regarding the pursuit of material wealth. Many studies have explored the motivation of Chinese migrants in the late twentieth century (Benton and Pieke 1998; Li 1999; Thun0 1999).

Migration was particularly important for Zhejiang people, even more so for Qingtianese, during the early period when the PRC reopened the door to emigration. The economic reforms that started in the late 1970s reignited Chinese emigration. At the beginning, permission to emigrate could be granted if the applicant could demonstrate sponsorship from relatives abroad. Zhejiang people, with their special links with Spain, became active participants in this process.

In 1985 the Law on the Control of Exit and Entry of Citizens was promulgated in China. It granted the right of exit to all Chinese citizens but required proof of an entry visa in the overseas destination. A Chinese citizen still needed to go through complicated formalities when applying for a passport. Relevant requirements included an invitation letter from the warrantor in the destination country, who also had to provide a financial guarantee for the duration of the visit; household registration documents; and approval from one’s work unit, which in rural areas meant the township authorities. With these documents, the applicant could go to the Public Security Bureau to apply for a passport.

In qiaoxiang areas such as Qingtian and Wenzhou in Zhejiang, the revival of emigration relied on the availability of supportive links with relatives and friends abroad, not only to provide the documents needed but to receive the new arrivals. In the early years of emigration, qiaoxiang people pioneered the new wave of emigration.

Table 13.2 shows the annual number of Qingtian people who received permission from the Qingtian Public Security Bureau to emigrate between 1986 and 2000. The variation shows how quickly the number grew, from a few thousand in the 1980s to more than 20,000 a year at the end of the 1990s.

The records show that Spain was the number-one destination for Qingtian people. During those 15 years, Qingtian migrants went to more than 39 different countries, but at the height of the wave 44.5 % went to Spain, and on average up to 28.5 % chose Spain as their destination. Why was Spain chosen?

Table 13.2 Annual report of Qingtian people who received emigration permission from Qingtian Public Security Bureau (1986-2000)

Year

Spain

Italy

Austria

Germany

Portugal

Other

Total?

Spain/ total (%)

1986

960

325

283

167

111

540

2386

40.2

1987

1392

158

315

198

145

920

3128

44.5

1988

156

376

404

193

50

939

2118

7.4

1989

N.A.

385

418

325

81

1528

N.A.

N.A.

1990

284

1240

645

1076

304

908

4457

6.4

1991

659

1661

767

828

265

1036

5216

12.6

1992

774

509

395

828

153

1472

4131

18.7

1993

590

344

330

763

158

2794

4979

11.8

1994

392

319

201

147

60

1230

2349

16.7

1995

937

553

297

253

96

2070

4206

22.3

1996

2322

799

400

354

210

4372

8457

27.5

1997

3572

2511

358

366

283

4824

11,914

30.0

1998

8920

3473

516

392

782

8835

22,918

38.9

1999

7944

3784

878

333

860

9537

23,336

34.0

2000

8754

8917

888

531

938

9952

29,980

29.2

Total

37,656

25,354

7095

6754

4496

50,957

132,312

28.5

aThe original table lists the statistics under 39 different countries. Here I have selected only the top five countries and grouped the remaining 34 under “Other”

Source: Editorial Board, Qingtian Huaqiaoshi [A History of Qingtianese Abroad]. Hangzhou: Zhejiang renmin chubanshe, 2011, p. 94

 
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