The Global Enclave Model: Economic Segregation, Intraethnic Conflict, and the Impact of Globalization on Chinese Immigrant Communities

By Chan, Angela Fuhn | Asian American Policy Review, Annual 2004 | Go to article overview

The Global Enclave Model: Economic Segregation, Intraethnic Conflict, and the Impact of Globalization on Chinese Immigrant Communities


Chan, Angela Fuhn, Asian American Policy Review


Abstract:

I offer a conceptual model, called the Global Enclave Model, to describe and explain immigrant Chinese enclaves in a comparative world context. By analyzing interview data collected from studies of the Chinese communities in Monterey Park, California, and London, Great Britain, I assess the relevance and applicability of existing theories on ethnic enclaves in describing and explaining the relationship between Chinese enclaves, host societies, and the world economy. I thereby illustrate the necessity of using the Global Enclave Model to more accurately explain the marginalization of Chinese immigrants, the growth of suburban and urban ethnic enclaves, and varying levels of intraethnic conflict in enclaves. My comparison study of two Chinese enclaves also supports the development of a Dual Enclave Model to elucidate the differences between urban and suburban enclaves.

Chinese Immigrant Enclaves in a Comparative World Context

Chinese enclaves, in the form of urban Chinatowns and developing suburban Chinatowns, are prevalent in most major cities in Western countries. The lack of extensive comparative research on Chinese immigrant communities, however, highlights the need to understand the general dynamics and particular characteristics of different Chinese enclaves. This is especially the case in Britain, where the government has until recently ignored this minority group. (2) A few scholars have compared Chinatowns in a national context, such as Min Zhou (1999), who juxtaposed Los Angeles' with New York's Chinatown. (3) My study contributes to an emerging field of research comparing ethnic enclaves in a global context. (4) My research focuses on the Chinese restaurant industry in the suburb of Monterey Park, CA, and in London's urban Chinatown. By comparing Monterey Park's suburban enclave and London's urban Chinatown, I have sought to cultivate a better understanding of the following: 1) the impact of globalization on Chinese ethnic enclaves, 2) the causal factors that segregate Chinese immigrants into ethnic enclaves away from mainstream society, and 3) the interracial and intraethnic dynamics of Chinese immigrant enclaves. I chose to study the suburban Chinese immigrant community in Monterey Park because it was the first majority-Asian American city in the continental United States. For this reason, Timothy Fong dubbed this city the first "suburban Chinatown." (5) I also decided to focus on London's Chinese enclave because Britain's historical colonialist relationship with Hong Kong has stimulated Chinese immigration to that country, and London has the largest Chinese community in Britain.

This article seeks to elucidate the economic, political, and social forces that cause Chinese immigrants to work in ethnic enclaves, such as the suburban enclave in Monterey Park, and ethnic niches, such as the Chinese restaurant industry. In particular, I examine: 1) how globalization and immigration policies have shaped the migration of people and capital from Asia to Western countries; 2) once in their adopted Western country, how various push factors influence Chinese immigrants to work in ethnic enclaves and/or ethnic niches; and 3) how differences along class, gender, nationality, and generational lines result in varying levels of intraethnic conflict amongst immigrants working in ethnic enclaves and/or ethnic niches. (6) Comparative analysis on how globalization differentially impacts new and old Chinatowns helps to explain the rapid financial development of suburban Chinatowns and the mass influx of low-skilled, undocumented immigration into urban Chinatowns. The causal factors that propel immigrant groups to fill economic niches, such as Chinese takeout (7) restaurants in Britain, elucidate the implications of social and economic segregation. My model posits that four main factors lead to the spatial and economic segregation (8) of Chinese immigrants into ethnic enclaves: language ability, social networks, skill level, and racism. …

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