The China Association in New York City

The papers in this collection deposited at SOAS primarily cover the China Association (1889-1961). This mercantile body represented its members’ commercial interests with respect to trade with China, Hong Kong and Japan. It regularly lobbied the British government and the Foreign Office on their behalf.

Like other traditional overseas Chinese associations, the China Association bound its members to the state by expressing their allegiance through its functions, such as coordinating support for victims of anti-Chinese racial violence and exercising discipline over unhealthy commercial competition.


The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, or CCBA, is one of the oldest community organizations in Chinatown. Historically, it has performed quasi-governmental functions for its members. It has worked with many mainstream organizations, including the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and the American Cancer Society, to provide services to Chinese Americans.

In addition, it has provided support to emigrants who were unable to bring their families with them due to strict American immigration laws. Many emigrants joined associations based on family names, places of origin, and professions. These groups often acted in concert with the CCBA, and the Library has collections that document these associations.

The CCBA also acquired a former Lutheran church building that became the central location of the Association. This facility has served as the meeting place for numerous social, cultural, and religious events. In 2023, it was named a historical marker by the Georgia Historical Society.


Whether their members are entrepreneurs, shopkeepers or factory workers, Chinese associations help to institutionalise and politicise the lives of migrants in the host country. They connect them with the embassy and the homeland state apparatus, fight anti-Chinese sentiment, and provide public goods.

Traditionally, overseas Chinese associations were primarily mercantile bodies, serving as intermediaries for British merchants with trade concerns in China and Asia. For example, the London China Association mediated grievances between merchants and the Foreign Office, and regularly published translations of Chinese newspapers.

Today, leaders of Chinese associations are able to build close relationships with the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office and the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party, and aspire to become members of the overseas Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. They also play an instrumental diplomatic role during high-level visits of Chinese politicians and businessmen to Zambia. It is not uncommon for them to pay a visit to state house on behalf of their members.


The CCBA is the parent organization of several Chinese organizations in New York City and serves as a lobbying group for Chinese residents in Chinatown. It performs many functions, including the organization of protests against discriminatory laws and taxes, arbitration and maintenance of law and order in Chinatown, and raising funds to send relief to Chinese communities around the world.

To carry out non-governmental international S&T exchange activities, promote international S&T cooperation, develop friendly exchanges with foreign (overseas) S&T groups and S&T workers, provide services for overseas S&T talents to conduct innovation in China and do business in China.

To inspire youth interest in science and technology, discover and train outstanding young scientists and innovation teams, commend and recommend S&T talents, build an excellent system of scientific research and development, strengthen mechanisms for the supervision of integrity in scientific research, and promote the implementation of the socialist core values concept in S&T work. To participate in national consultation and formulation of S&T strategy, planning, layout, policies, laws and regulations.


Members include Chinese and non-Chinese students in the local communities. They are involved in many activities to promote a culture bridge as well as personal/professional development. This includes organizing career fairs and guiding effective student-professionals-corporations communication. The CSA also organizes regular events like interviews workshops and culture shows as part of its mission to bring the community together.

The archives of the association are held at the School of Oriental and African Studies. They contain lists and rosters of members; minutes and committee papers; correspondence with the Foreign Office, London Chamber of Commerce, Local Chambers, Tientsin and Hong Kong chambers of commerce and the British Consulate in Shanghai; and papers relating to the Hong Kong Association and the Sino-British Trade Council.

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