« Making old diseases | Gene Expression Front Page | And the Turks may not be coming »
January 25, 2005

The Chinese are coming (to Europe, that is)

Back in July of 2003, Frank Laczko (of the International Organization for Migration) wrote the interesting article "Europe Attracts More Migrants from China".

Laczko's article argues that the PRC-citizenship population of Europe is low, divided roughly as described in the below chart:

Substantial evidence seems to suggest a significant undercount. The data for France is particularly poor, being more than a decade out of date. This is unfortunate, since, as Hugh Schofield wrote for Expatica, the French Chinese community is quite dynamic.

From a handful of Catholic converts brought back to the court of Louis XIV, the Chinese in France have grown to a community of some 600,000 and their numbers continue to swell with new waves of immigration from Manchuria and other depressed parts of the home country.

Some 25 years after the first mass arrivals into France, the Chinese population has spread well beyond its original stronghold in the 13th arrondissement - or district - in southern Paris and is now active in all major French towns and cities.

"Like everywhere else in the world, the Chinese community in France stands out for its dynamism and its adaptability," said Pierre Piquart, professor of geopolitics and specialist in the Chinese diaspora.

[. . .]

Numbers did not significantly increase [from a few thousand] over the next 50 years, until the expulsions of ethnic Chinese from Vietnam - the Boat People - led to a wave of immigration, and the colonisation of what Parisians now call Chinatown: the high-rise neighbourhood near the Port d'Italie in the 13th arrondissement.

And then since the 1980s has come the mass influx, as economic change in China, globalisation and the proliferation of people-smuggling networks have combined to generate persistent migratory pressure. Today the population is growing at 20 percent a year, according to Picquart.

Many of the new arrivals are "Dongbei," escaping the large-scale de-industrialisation of northeastern China, and therefore of different origins and traditions from the long-settled communities from Indochina and Zhejiang.

It's worth noting that the population of Dongbei--roughly corresponding to the area of Japan's Manchukuo satellite--is in excess of 100 million. Yes, Russia is located just across the Amur; Russia's absorptive capacity for immigrants, though, is open to doubt, particularly given the rate of China's modernization. As Laczko argues, Europe potentially has substantial absorptive capacity for Chinese immigrants:

There are signs of a growing demand for skilled workers and students from China in a number of European countries. Shortages of skilled workers in sectors such as health services have already led to campaigns by some European countries, such as Ireland and the UK, to recruit nurses directly from China.

Educational institutions in western Europe seeking to increase their income from student fees have also been quick to exploit the growing market for Chinese students. Hundreds of Western education agencies are now established in China. They provide information about schools in the destination countries, assist with applications for admission, or even help with passport and visa applications. Over 160 institutions from 22 countries recently took part in the China International Higher Education Exhibition Tour. Some destination countries have considered easing visa entry requirements in order to facilitate the movement of students from China. Ireland's education and science minister, for instance, recently commented that his country was prepared to simplify its visa arrangements and to speed up the processing of visas to facilitate the entry of Chinese students.

It has been recently suggested that Europe is becoming a more important destination for Chinese students because of the September 11 attacks in the United States. China is the leading country of origin for foreign students in the US (59,939 in 2000-2001). But since the September 11 attacks, a new trend sparked by both tightening US visa requirements and growing concerns over security in America seems to have emerged. Many American universities cancelled their trips to the biggest education fair in China last year. The change in the situation in the US has coincided with the development of clear national priorities and comprehensive strategies by European countries like the UK, France, and Germany to attract more foreign students.

In southern Europe, the de facto acceptance of high numbers of unauthorized migrant workers and the existence of ample employment opportunities for them in the informal economy have contributed to the increase in migration from China. Another important reason is that these new destinations provide fresh business niches for the Chinese. Communities of Chinese in western Europe have usually been concentrated in the catering business. The catering business has become increasingly saturated since the 1990s, however, and there is not much evidence that the communities are entering new industries. By contrast, the Chinese in eastern and southern Europe are often engaged in the import/export trade between China and Europe, and even manufacturing (e.g., the leather and garment industries in Italy), partly encouraged by the economic structures particular to these countries.

Europe is a global economic power. It only makes sense that it has the capacity to attract immigrants from all over the world. Europe's Chinese communities are currently small; then again, a half-century ago so were its Muslim communities. A Chinese population that is already much more mobile within the frontiers of China that an Arab-Berber-Kurdish population within the frontiers of the Arab world has the potential to make a substantial impact on European demographics. Potential only, given the growing hostility to immigration that Pearsall Helms has described developing even in relatively liberal Britain, but even so.

Posted by randymac at 07:00 PM