Despite the challenges of discrimination, Chinese communities in America have thrived. They have created a variety of professional, business, and cultural organizations.
Their values include hard work and thriftiness. They place great importance on education for their children. They are also a community that is able to adapt to changing social environments.
Chinatowns in the United States
Across America, Chinatowns are communities that thrive because of the people who live and work in them. People like Jerry Tam, who takes pride in continuing the family business his parents and great-grandparents built.
In the past, these neighborhoods served as lifelines for Chinese immigrants, providing a place to establish themselves and support each other. But times have changed. Some Chinatowns have been torn apart by racial violence and urban renewal projects. Others have been threatened by the pandemics of bubonic plague and other infectious diseases.
Now, new threats — from anti-Asian hate crimes to inequitable city planning and zoning policies — are threatening the survival of these community spaces. But AAPIs are working to preserve their legacy through archival work, oral history projects and cultural events. They are also embracing preservation tools that could help counter the forces of displacement, gentrification and other challenges. This map highlights a few of these efforts. Click on a circle to learn more about a particular community.
Chinatowns in Canada
Located east of downtown Vancouver, this Chinatown has been humming busily for over a century with exotic cuisine and vibrant culture. The area is also a popular tourist destination. It is home to many organizations and businesses that celebrate the contributions made by Chinese Canadians over two centuries.
The community faces challenges. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has experienced real estate development pressures and crime problems including vandalism, petty theft, graffiti and more.
Despite these challenges, it remains one of the oldest and largest Chinatowns in North America. It has been revitalized by the addition of new shops, restaurants and cultural venues, and by second-generation heritage business owners who add a fresh flair to their establishments. It is a community that is resilient and able to adapt to change, says Yan. It also offers a great opportunity to educate young people about the Chinese community in Canada. The Chinese Canadian History Project Council of Simon Fraser University has developed educational materials that can be used by schools and the general public.
Chinatowns in Australia
Australia is home to a handful of Chinatowns. The oldest is in Melbourne, which began when gold was discovered in the region and Chinese miners set up shop along Little Bourke Street. The community thrived until Australia became a federation and introduced the White Australia policy, which severely limited non-European immigration.
Today, traditional Chinatowns struggle to attract younger generations. They are often characterized by monocultural offerings, such as yum cha and dim sum. They also face a decline in foot traffic due to COVID-19 and less people commuting into cities.
In some cases, these Chinatowns are being replaced by a new kind of Asian hub, one that is family-friendly and focused on food. For example, in the suburb of Burwood, Sydney, a popular dining destination called New Chinatown is taking shape. The area is a hub for locals to enjoy authentic Chinese cuisine, while connecting with their heritage and culture. The hub is also a magnet for tourists.
Chinatowns in Europe
There are many Chinatowns in Europe and each one has a different history. Some of them have a long history while others are relatively new developments. In Amsterdam, for instance, a Chinese community has been established since the 1990s. Its centre is located in the West-Kruiskade neighbourhood.
In Liverpool, the oldest Chinatown in Europe was founded in the 1860s when the city became a major port and traded cotton and silk with Shanghai. Over the next century, a number of ethnic Chinese residents settled in the area, opening restaurants and launderettes.
Today, the Chinese in Liverpool are few and far between. Nelson Street, their Chinatown hub, is almost empty on a balmy early afternoon and the few Chinese professional-services firms that remain look deserted as well. The decline of Liverpool’s Chinatown is part of a wider pattern in which the Chinese have been squeezed out of the mainstream economy in favour of businesses catering to visitors from mainland China.