27 Jun 2016 - 28 Jun 2016 All day St Catharine's College (McGrath Centre)


Registration has now closed. 



Rudolph Ng (University of Cambridge)


The Chinese diaspora has a long global tradition dating back to the nineteenth century and before. While much work has been done on Chinese migration to South Asia and North America, migration to other parts of the world, including Africa, Latin America, Australia and the Middle East, has received little attention. The history of migration chains in China, on which emigration was based, is equally important, and deserves critical study. As growing numbers of people continue to migrate both within China and beyond its borders, it is imperative that we look at the past to discover the issues and opportunities encountered by people, institutions, and nations then and now, and to assess their many implications for national policymaking, not only in China, but in the Americas, Europe and Africa.

This event will seek to augment our current knowledge of Chinese migration by taking a global view of the topic, and by linking it closely to the movement of people within and outside China. Among the questions the conference aims to explore are the following: Do we need to rethink the traditional divide between the study of Chinese migration within China and migration beyond its borders? Do the causes of internal migration differ from those of migration abroad? Are there more links than previously thought between patterns of Chinese migration to different regions?

To discuss these questions, the conference seeks to bring together senior and junior scholars from various disciplines such as history, business, Latin American Studies, and Asian Studies. In addition to its potential academic contributions, this event will serve as a platform for inter-disciplinary dialogue between those in Cambridge and beyond who share an interest in the studies of migration.





Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Universities' China Committee in London, the Economic History Society, the Centre for Latin American Studies, and the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge.

Accommodation for speakers selected through the call for papers and non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange or book accommodation; however, the following websites may be of help:

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms
University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

Administrative assistance: events@crassh.cam.ac.uk


Day 1 - 27 June 2016 McGrath Centre, St Catharine’s College
16:30 - 17.00

Registration, Tea and coffee

17:00 - 17:10

Welcome and Introduction

Rudolph Ng

17:15 - 18:30

Keynote Lecture

  • Evelyn Hu-DeHart (Brown University)
    Spanish Manila: A Trans-Pacific Maritime Enterprise & America's First Chinatown
18:30 - 19:00

Wine Reception

Day 2 - 28 June 2016 McGrath Centre, St Catharine's College
9:00 - 10:30

Panel 1: Chinese Migration to the Americas

  • Gordon Chang (Stanford University)
    The Chinese Railroad Worker Project
  • Isabelle Lausent-Herrera (CNRS, Paris)
    Can We Still Speak of Overseas Chinese Communities? The Case of Peru

Discussant: Gabriela Ramos (University of Cambridge)

10:30 - 11:00

Tea and coffee

11:00 - 13:00

Panel 2: Chinese Migration along the Pacific Rim

  • John Fitzgerald (Swinburne University)
    Effective Giving: Institutional Innovation and Charity in the Cantonese Pacific, 1880-1950
  • Man-Houng Lin (Academia Sinica, Taiwan)
    Taiwan’s Intra-Asian Trade and Migration in the 1930s
  • Huifen Shen (Xiamen University)
    Mothers-in-law versus Daughters-in-law: Changing Relationships in the Transnational Migrant Families during the First Half of the Twentieth Century

Discussant: Alison Bashford (University of Cambridge)

13:00 - 14:00


14:00 - 15:30

Panel 3: New Topics on Migration and China

  • Thomas Scharping (University of Cologne and Free University Berlin)
    Internal Migration in Modern China, 1840-2015
  • Frank Pieke (Leiden University)
    Will China Become an Immigration Country?

Discussant: Hans van de Ven (University of Cambridge)

15:30 - 16:30

Roundtable Discussion

  • John Fitzgerald (Swinburne University)
  • Evelyn Hu-DeHart (Brown University)
  • Hans van de Ven (University of Cambridge)


Evelyn Hu-DeHart (Professor of History and American Studies, Brown University): Spanish Manila:  A Trans-Pacific Maritime Enterprise and America's First Chinatown

It is commonly thought that meaningful contact between Asia and America did not begin until the 19th century, with the massive arrival of  Chinese laborers for gold mining and railroad construction in California. Before that, however, the China trade between New England merchants and Canton merchants had thrived since the 18th century, before and after the American Revolution.  But well before that, if we think of “America” hemispherically as “the Americas,” then we must go back to the mid-16th century to locate the beginning of sustained contact between Asia and America, in this case, between Manila on Luzon island in Las Filipinas and Acapulco on the Pacific coast of Mexico, then called New Spain.  From 1565 to 1815, for 250 years, one to three galleon ships made the round trip trans-Pacific voyage without fail, carrying American silver (mined in Mexico and Peru) to Manila.  There, the largely Hokkien traders and settlers in Manila's Chinatown, called the Parián acted as indispensable intermediaries in the trade of American silver for Chinese silk, porcelain, lacquer, ivory carvings, as well as spices and many other precious commodities from the larger Indian Ocean and Nanyang world.  Chinese and other Asian goods were also trans-shipped from Mexico across the Atlantic to Spain and Europe.   Without the critical role played by the Chinese in Manila, this first truly global trading system could not have happened.  Because Spanish Manila was an extension of Mexico in the Americas, should we not consider the Parián in Manila as “America's First Chinatown?”


Gordon Chang (Olive H. Palmer Professor of Humanities, Stanford University): The Chinese Railroad Worker Project

In the United States, the completion of the first transcontinental rail line across the United States in 1869 is hailed as a signal event in the life of the nation. Celebrated as a “marvel” of American engineering and energy, the railroad is viewed as a physical and metaphoric bind that united the nation politically, economically and socially.  Critical accounts emphasize the negative: the terrible toll on the workers; the violent subjugation of native peoples; and the corrupt business practices of the railroad barons.  I will offer perspectives that challenge the domestic-centered, national narratives, triumphant as well as critical. I will discuss the conception of the transcontinental project as embedded in American ambitions for globalization and in America’s connection to China; and I will discuss the historical experience of Chinese workers in America as an international labor force essential in completing the line.  I will examine systems of migration and employment, social identity, lived experiences, and consequences of their work and life on the railroad.  My presentation draws from the historical and archaeological research of the Chinese Railroad Workers Project in North America at Stanford that I co-direct.


John Fitzgerald (Professor of Business Administration, Swinburne University): Effective Giving: Institutional Innovation and Charity in the Cantonese Pacific, 1880-1950

This paper explores trust as an issue in cross-border donations for political and charitable causes among Chinese communities around the Pacific Rim in the last years of empire and early Republic, both in relation to their everyday dealings with one another, and in relating to communities and causes in China. It focuses on select features of trust in donor-recipient relations, specifically the entrusting of funds to a recipient on the understanding that the recipient will be financially accountable, faithful to donor intent, effective in delivery of the intended benefit, and acknowledge the donor’s generosity. It  references comparative work on the relative standing of personal and impersonal trust in Chinese and Western organisational practice. Through a series of case studies it traces the institutional development of community organisations overseas, highlighting the institutional innovations developed to build trust and to manage fund-raising and cross-border donations across the Chinese diaspora. It concludes that questions of trust and mistrust helped to shape institutional innovation in the Chinese diaspora.


Isabelle Lausent-Herrera (Researcher, French National Research Center): Can we still speak of overseas Chinese communities? The case of the Peru

What we call globally, the Peruvian Chinese community, has evolved significantly over the past 30 years, after new migrants arrived from China and since others regrouped around new associations of Chinese descendants (the Tusans). The first migration flow, consisting of Cantonese, has perpetuated traditional immigration from specific Cantonese districts (samyap, siyap) to Peru, while the second, from Fujian came to transform in many respects the community structure. To these migrants were added Chinese workers attached to large State Chinese enterprises and medium-size investors from all over China. The recent creation by a new Yuexi regional group, coming from districts in the extreme southwest of Guangdong, border with Guangxi, illustrates the recomposition of the Chinese community. At the same time, the Tusans tend to be closer to the Beneficencia China and the Chinese Embassy. The latter began to regain control over these two groups and especially the youth through the creation of a common cultural centre. Observing the Peruvian case one might ask if the structural analysis of Chinese communities overseas, who undergo the same transformations, must be profoundly changed. It seems that the denominations of Huaqiao and Huayi (tusan) need to be rethought.


Man-Houng Lin (Professor of Modern History, Academia Sinica): Taiwan’s Intra-Asian Trade and Migration in the 1930s

In the 1930s, Taiwan was ruled by Japan. By contrast with Hori Kazuo to have touched upon the intra-Asian trade of this period focusing upon Japan, this study depicts the intra-Asian trade of this decade by focusing upon Taiwan. By applying the archives and publications of the Japanese governor-government and the Bank of Taiwan, newspapers, biographies, Asian historical materials provided by the Japanese archival center, and the newspaper clips of the Kobe University, this paper obtained the following findings: 1. In the 1930s, Taiwan’s trade with the Northeast Asia had been vividly increased. The increase of trade between Taiwan and Japan proper observed by this study is the same as what Hori Kazuo has observed. This study furthermore points out the increase rate of trade between Taiwan and Manchukuo as well as Korea greater than that between Taiwan and the Japan proper. Other than trade which has been attended by Hori Kazuo, this study furthermore points out the increasing migration between Taiwan and all Asian areas in this period, in which the Taiwan’s migration to China increased most vividly. Taiwan’s migration to the Southeast Asia in this period also obtained more of the support of the Japanese government. All these increase of flow of goods and people within Asia centered upon Taiwan had been made possible by the rise of Asia-Pacific navigation relative to the Asia-European navigation. 2. In this expansion of intra-Asian trade and migration, Taiwan’s national boundary with all these various areas was clearly observed rather than imagined. The Republic of China (ROC) set up its consuls in Taipei during 1931-1938 to take care of its migrants to Taiwan. Following the treaty between Japan and Korea signed in 1910, the relation between Taiwan and Korea turned more and more from being international into being domestic. Taiwanese salaries or international status in the immigrated areas were the same as the Japanese from the Japanese proper. By contrast with the mostly labor population among immigrants from other Asian areas to Taiwan, many of the emigrants from Taiwan to these areas were rich merchants. With the setting up of ROC consuls in Taiwan, the Sino-Japanese relation was superficially maintained after the Mukden Incident until 1938. When Taiwanese products, deemed as Japanese products, were rejected in the Southeast Asia and welcome in Manchuria and other newly Japanese conquered Chinese mainland, Taiwanese vested interest was more and more intertwined with the Japanese empire which climaxed its war victory by conquering Wuchang and Hankou in 1938. Disclosing this historical development in intra-Asian relation centered upon Taiwan would help us understand the opposing attitude toward Japan by the Chinese mainlanders and the local Taiwanese in the post-1945 Taiwan.


Frank Pieke (Professor and Chair of Modern China Studies, University of Leiden): Will China Become an Immigration Country?

The growth of mega-cities and more generally rapid urbanization in China not only include hundreds of millions internal migrants, but an increasing number of foreign (including Taiwanese and returning ethnic Chinese) migrants as well. At present, foreign migrants fill relatively small and specific skills and knowledge gaps. They also include marriage migrants, traders, investors, retirees and unskilled workers. However, China’s working age population is set to decline, slowly at first but increasingly rapidly, especially roughly after 2025. This paper investigates the impact of for immigration on patterns of inequality, the cultural division of labour and the new forms of cultural, ethnic and religious diversity that they engender. The paper will also look at popular, academic and government responses to the growing presence of international migrants, and at how processes of human mobility and cultural diversity interact, challenge and reiterate notions of the nation-state, international order, sovereignty, citizenship and identity.


Thomas Scharping (Professor of Modern China Studies, University of Cologne and Free University Berlin): Internal Migration in Modern China, 1840-2015

As an age-old instrument of government efforts for territorial consolidation, a constant companion of social and political upheavals, or a result of accelerating modernization processes, internal migration plays a prominent role in the history of modern China. At the same time, it is a topic obscured by decades of lacking documentation, confused classifications and a chaotic data situation. This article will therefore first offer a brief discussion of sources, definitions and practices before sketching major periods of population movement from 1840, the beginning of the violent modernization of China, to present times. The historical outline will be followed by a discussion of volume, direction, and distance, channels, motivations and migrant selectivity for the major migration streams during the better documented periods. The latest information comes from the 2015 microcensus, whose detailed results are not published yet. The analysis will introduce the main differences between organized and spontaneous forms of movement, distinguish between inter-regional and intra-regional migration and involve an examination of changes in the regulatory regime. A final section pinpoints hot spots of present migration issues and summarizes the effects of migration for China’s society, economy and politics. The article will concentrate on migration in mainland China and comment on links between internal and external migration. In order to cover 175 years of Chinese migration experience within manageable proportions, it combines broad commentary incorporating findings from own fieldwork, past migration studies and new Chinese materials with tabulations of detail, either unknown or dispersed in a voluminous literature.


Huifen Shen (Associate Professor of International Relations, Xiamen University): Mothers-in-law versus Daughters-in-law: Changing Relationships in the Transnational Migrant Families during the First Half of the Twentieth Century

The relationship between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law is crucial to the understanding of traditional Chinese families, which generally consider that a mother-in-law the supervisor of her daughter-in-law. Nevertheless, the relationships between the two parties in transnational migrant families have been under-studied. Given the unique circumstances of the migrant families, many questions remained unanswered. How did the migration of the male member of the family affect the relationships between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law, who were both left-behind? What kinds of interactions did they have? What were their experiences and what were the factors that influenced these? What were the attitudes of the migrant men towards the relationships between their wives and mothers? How did migrant men regard and handle the relationships and interactions between their womenfolk back home? Using local newspapers in Fujian in the 1940s, oral history conducted in Fujian in 2004, 2012, and 2013, remittance letters (qiaopi 侨批), as well as previous studies on Chinese migration, this paper explores how migration influenced the relationships between the mothers-in-law and the daughters-in-law in transnational migrant families in China in the first half of the twentieth century, and the interactions and sentiments of the female parties and the migrants when they dealt with the relationship between the womenfolk. It argues that, with the men’s emigration, the relationship between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law faced new circumstances that the family members had to adjust to. The relationships between the female parties became more complex and multi-faceted with men’s transnational migration and the transition of Chinese society in the first half of the twentieth century. The traditional Chinese norms of a woman, the interactions and sentiments between the left-behind family members, the emotional and material needs of the emigrants and the left-behinds, the long-term absence of emigrants in family life, and the inflow or stoppage of remittances, became crucial factors for the changing relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law and reshaped the lives of them and their relatives abroad. Emigration had perpetuated old models and created new type of relationships between the in-law women. A variety of relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law reflects the changes of Chinese women relationship and female age hierarchies in migrant families.

In the process, many male emigrants tried to influence the relationship through remittance sending, letter writing, or return trips. However, sometimes the emigrants’ influence over family relations was not decisive or consequential because of the long distance and limited information about what was going on in their home families. In some cases, emigrants resolved the conflict between the female parties by bringing their wives abroad, or abandoning their wives if the women were deemed to have failed to perform the expected duties of a daughter-in-law.

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