Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

Migration from China to Slovakia

Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

Migration from China to Slovakia

Article excerpt

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While numerous specialist studies about Chinese communities have been published in other countries in the region, like Hungary, the Czech Republic or Poland, this is not the case in Slovakia. To date there have been only four studies expressively dedicated to the Chinese living in Slovakia.1 It is not only that specialists pay little attention to this topic, the Slovak media rarely report on it either, and consequently there is a general lack of information about the Chinese community in Slovakia.

Yet, the People's Republic of China (PRC or China) is the most populous country in the world with a long tradition of migration dating back to the seventeenth century and has a diaspora around the world. There are indications that that there will be an increase in Chinese migration to Slovakia as well.

In the majority of cases Chinese migrants form separate communities abroad, living separate lives from the majority populations. In many cases, i.e. in Central and Eastern Europe, businesses run by Chinese migrants have contributed to the economic stabilization of the region. In the last 30 years Chinese society has undergone deep social change. This has been reflected in both the number and kinds of Chinese people that migrate.

The main goal of this paper is to help better understand Chinese migration to Slovakia and its secondary goal is to better understand Chinese migration in the Central European region. It briefly surveys the history of Chinese migration to Czechoslovakia and later to Slovakia, before focusing on the motives behind migration to Slovakia, the social structure and life of the Chinese community, and contact with Slovak society. The paper also looks at contradictory political priorities, the restrictive policy based on the Schengen acquis on one hand, and attempts to attract potential investors from all around the world, China included, on the other.

The main sources used in this study are secondary sources, articles from journals such as Nový Orient [New Orient], the daily press, sinological studies and materials produced by the civil service and non-governmental organizations.

Historical background

Prior to World War II only a few Chinese people lived in Czechoslovakia. Their numbers increased slightly in the 1950s thanks to Czechoslovak-Chinese cooperation. In the majority of cases they were students or specialists who returned to the PRC following graduation or completion of training.2 After an ideological dispute in the 1960s cooperation was terminated and the Chinese did not settle in Czechoslovakia even once political and economic contact had been re-established in the 1980s.3 At the end of the 1980s tens of thousands of Chinese migrants came to Central Europe, several thousand of whom temporarily settled in Slovakia, having come from Hungary, Poland or the Soviet Union. Most of the Chinese migrants did not settle in Slovakia until the 1990s.

In the last twenty years, since the early 1990s, the Chinese communities in Central Europe have undergone a process of transformation to form a stable section of Central European society. The process began in Hungary when a change in migration policy in October 1988 enabled citizens of PRC to enter Hungary without a visa. During the two months that followed approximately 45,000 Chinese people crossed the Hungarian border. Consequently in October 1991 the Hungarian government was forced to tighten up entry conditions for Chinese citizens and in April 1992 the visa regime was re-established. Subsequently the Chinese began to concentrate on other countries in the region.4 Some of these migrants settled in Slovakia.

Chinese migration in the 1990s differed significantly from previous Chinese migration flows. Prior to China's opening up to the world, its economic reforms and rapid economic development, the migration flows did not include only members of the poorest social classes, but also small business owners and entrepreneurs. …

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