The mid-nineteenth century saw a large wave of Chinese migration. Unskilled labourers, known as coolies, dominated this movement.
In the United States, anti-Chinese sentiment and restrictive immigration laws influenced where and how Chinese lived. Despite this, Chinese built vibrant communities and contributed to their host nations. Many still seek positive engagement in community life.
The Chinese diaspora is the most extensive in the world. Its members have established distinct communities in places far from China, including Southeast Asia, North America, Oceania, Africa and Europe. Each community has its own culture, language and history.
In the United States, for example, local Chinese business owners have consolidated their hold on many markets. Their influence is most evident in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City.
The Chinese-American community has a strong connection to their ancestral homeland. For generations, families have gathered together during the summer to attend family reunification tours in China. These tours, which are run by the government, allow children to learn about their heritage and see the country of their ancestors. They also encourage Chinese youth to support and invest in China’s economic development. This creates a bridge between the Chinese in the diaspora and their home country. Despite this, academic divides have separated scholars into China experts, East Asian specialists, and those focused on Chinese in Western countries.
Chinese immigrants worldwide have made significant contributions to their new societies. They have cultivated agriculture and built ports in tropical countries; mined gold in the US West and Europe; constructed railroads, opened restaurants, and founded grocery stores in urban areas. They have also set a distinctively thrifty, self-reliant ethic that emphasizes education for the next generation.
The first major wave of Chinese migration occurred in the 1850s with the California Gold Rush and the Taiping Rebellion in Southern China. Emigrants sought better lives and the ability to support family members back home. They established themselves in urban communities known as Chinatowns.
The second major wave began in the 1980s as China stepped up foreign trade and investment. Chinese migrants come from all over the world — South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and the United States — as well as from other parts of China. They are largely professional or business people but also include marriage migrants and unskilled laborers.
Throughout its 5,000-year history, China has developed its own distinctive culture. It is a priceless heritage that unites philosophy and religion; language and writing; art and literature, including calligraphy and painting; food and cooking; and architecture and urban design.
Confucianism and Buddhism, along with Taoist teachings, are the foundations of Chinese culture. These faiths have shaped the Chinese mindset, which places great importance on benevolence, righteousness, propriety and wisdom, as well as a focus on family and societal peace.
A staple in the Chinese diet is rice, which translates to “meal.” Bean sprouts and cabbage are also eaten frequently. Chinese cuisine is diverse and depends on geography and ethnicity.
The Guangzhou Modern Dance Troupe is a prime example of how traditional Chinese dance has evolved into contemporary performances that tackle current social issues. Kung Fu is another popular form of martial arts that has remained true to its roots. It is a practice that is commonly found at major festivals and holidays.
In China, informal relationships and personal connections often determine political outcomes. Research by scholars shows that Chinese respondents answer political questions with coherent policy preferences that bundle in predictable ways. For example, those who favor liberal views on politics and economics also tend to support free markets and oppose nationalistic foreign policy.
China’s central government sets policies and oversees implementation by local authorities. Nonetheless, the Communist Party of China (CCP) maintains a monopoly on power that has evolved in recent decades as it tries to embed itself deeper into society and the economy. The CCP’s strategy is to balance repression and responsiveness. For instance, the party solicits opinions of experts and regular citizens on most pending legislation and major regulations before they’re finalized. The party also tolerates and even cooperates with groups that provide disaster relief, poverty alleviation, job training, and other social welfare goods and services. The party is wary of religious and civil society organizations, however, that might challenge its authority.