Pre-Emigration Socialization, Transnational Ties, and Political Participation across the Pacific: A Comparison among Immigrants from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong

By Lien, Pei-te | Journal of East Asian Studies, September-December 2010 | Go to article overview

Pre-Emigration Socialization, Transnational Ties, and Political Participation across the Pacific: A Comparison among Immigrants from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong


Lien, Pei-te, Journal of East Asian Studies


Extant research on immigrant incorporation pays little attention to variations among immigrants from the same ethnic origin. A main purpose of this study is to address this research void by exploring how differences in the pre-emigration socialization context for immigrants from a politically divided homeland may affect their participation in mainstream-oriented and homeland-regarded politics. I posit that experiences Asian immigrants have in different political systems before crossing the Pacific may result in different relationships they maintain with their homeland as well as different attitudes toward homeland government and policies they develop after the crossing; and this, in turn, may affect how much they participate in politics on both sides of the Pacific. However, through the process of resocialization, I also suggest immigrants' political behavior may be influenced by their degree of exposure to the host society as well as by their connectedness with its institutions. Using data from the 2007 Chinese American Homeland Politics survey, I focus on the experiences of US immigrants of Chinese descent from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to test these hypotheses.

KEYWORDS: political socialization, transnationalism, homeland politics, immigrant political incorporation, Chinese Americans, Taiwanese Americans, Hong Kong Americans

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How do political socialization and resocialization influence the political behavior of US immigrants from East Asia? Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are the main homeland origins of ethnic Chinese immigrants in the United States. Because these three places of origin vary in degree of both political openness and economic development, a comparative study of immigrants from these separate parts of a divided homeland provides a natural experiment to test the effects of homeland socialization on immigrant participation in politics in both their homeland and hostland. Using data from the 2007 Chinese American Homeland Politics survey, I focus here on aspects of political behavior that deal with immigrant political participation in US mainstream and Asian homeland politics both before and after migration to advance understanding of this transnational phenomenon.

Despite profound interethnic differences among immigrants from East Asia, East Asian immigrants in the United States have been collectively lumped together and paradoxically stereotyped either as the unassimilable "perpetual foreigners" or as the superassimilated "model minority" (Okihiro 1995; Kim 1999; Wu 2002). A similar process of racialization (Omi and Winant 1994) appears to affect the studying of Chinese Americans when immigrants who share the same ethnic origin are assumed to share the same socialization in their Asian homeland and resocialization in the host society of the United States. A main purpose of this study is to address the observed problem by paying attention to politically relevant variations associated with immigrants from separate parts of the homeland and explore how these contextual and individual variations may affect the degree and type of immigrant political participation. One main proposition is that not all immigrants from the same national or ancestral origin should be treated as one political group in their place of settlement when their political socialization in, continuing ties to, and political concerns of the homeland may be dissimilar. Experiences immigrants have in different political systems before they cross the Pacific may result in different relationships they maintain with their homeland as well as different attitudes toward homeland government and political status they develop after the crossing; this, in turn, may affect how much they participate in politics on both sides of the Pacific. Nevertheless, through the process of immigrant resocialization, their political behavior may also be influenced by the degree of exposure to the host society and connectedness with its institutions.

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Pre-Emigration Socialization, Transnational Ties, and Political Participation across the Pacific: A Comparison among Immigrants from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong
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