Chinese: Divergent Destinies
in Immigrant New York
If you love her, send her to New York, because that's paradise; if you hate her, send her to New York, because that's hell.
—Prelude to the Chinese movie
A Native of Beijing in New York
New York offers many fortunes but unequal opportunities to newcomers. Not everyone can make it here. It [New York] is like a happy melting pot for some, a pressure cooker for many others, and still a dumpster for the unfortunate.
—A Chinese immigrant1
In New York City, any rush-hour subway ride in the morning or evening gives a visitor a chance to rub shoulders with people of different ancestries and hear various languages spoken. New York has, of course, long been an immigrant city, but until recently the immigrants were overwhelmingly European. Time has washed off the “colors” of the old-timers from Russia, Italy, and Ireland, “melting” them into an indistinguishable “white.” A new ethnic mosaic is in the making as a result of the arrival of hundreds and thousands of newcomers from Asia and the Americas.
This chapter has benefited from insightful discussions with prominent scholars, civic and business leaders, community organizers, and residents in the Chinese immigrant community in New York City. I wish to thank Nancy Foner, Paul Huang, John Logan, and Joyce Zhao for their helpful comments and suggestions. I also thank Jo-Ann Yap Adefuin and Amy Chai for their research assistance. The research is supported by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.