Chinese Associations in America

Chinese migrants have been organising themselves in associational societies for centuries. Associational life has been extensively studied by scholars.

In Zambia, leaders of Chinese associations often seek support from the embassy in their efforts to manage the community. They also serve as ambassadors for the embassy in their dealings with local elites.


The Historical Society for Twentieth-Century China (HSTCC) is the premier international professional organization dedicated to the study of modern Chinese history. Established in 1983, the HSTCC is an IRS-approved 501(c) (3) nonprofit and has over 120 members worldwide, representing the leading research communities in the field of modern Chinese studies.

In 1889, a group of “Old China Hands” met at the Thatched House Club to discuss their desire to form an association that would be exclusively concerned with China affairs. The Association quickly grew into a major force, lobbying the British government on behalf of its members regarding commercial grievances in China.

The CCBA also settled disputes among family associations and paid for steamship passage for elderly members returning to China. It was the only voice for the immigrant Chinese community during successive decades of racism and discriminatory state and local laws. During this time, the CCBA also provided social services and started a Chinese language school for children.


Overseas Chinese associations function as mediatory platforms tying individual migrants to the broader Chinese state, contributing their allegiance while benefiting from public goods, and serving as a proxy of collective Chinese interests in host societies. They bind overseas Chinese to the local community through a range of functions, from organising cultural and philanthropic activities to promoting China’s soft power.

They also serve commercial purposes, guiding and coordinating Chinese companies’ legitimate business in the host country through consultation and exercising discipline vis-à-vis unhealthy competitive practices among member businesses. They are able to do this through their close links with the Chinese embassies and their involvement in China’s domestic politics. They have three major roles: civic and self-governing associations; hometown associations, which are based on kinship and geographical relationships; and semi-official associations (chambers of commerce, industry associations and those focused on other semi-official issues). They are all answerable to the Chinese embassies for special political mobilisation and business regulation, such as in the areas of promoting peaceful national “reunification” and strengthening business competition.


In the mid-to late 1800s, Chinese immigrant family associations sprung up in cities across America to support their community. These groups, modeled after China’s huiguen system of regional and dialect-based family associations, sometimes operated like quasi-governmental entities.

CCBA was a powerhouse in its heyday, wielding financial, political, and social power. Its benevolent society functioned to protect its members and their property. The organization also assisted with obtaining U.S. citizenship and voting rights, and fought for the rights of its members in the local business community.

Today, CCLA serves as an important community resource to help its members connect and thrive in their careers as nurses. It also helps get personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers and under-resourced communities with a focus on equity. The organization also hosts events and activities to promote the richness of Chinese culture in Iowa. Membership is $10 per year and includes benefits through June 2020. Click here to join now!


CCBA continues to be an active organization in the community. It serves its membership by maintaining the presence of Chinese/Asian people in the area. It also plays a role in advocacy for the Chinese/Asian population of this country.

In 1973, ACA voted to become a charter chapter of the national Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA). ACA has long dreamed of owning its own community center and finally achieved this in 2022 with the opening of the Chinese Cultural Center.

This center will be a focal point for preserving, nurturing and promoting the Chinese culture and arts. It will provide Chinese art programs in the areas of traditional dances, folk music, calligraphy, chinese language and painting to the local communities.

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