Term Paper: Chinese Migration to the United States a Dissection of the Push Pull Theory

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Migration

Chinese Migration to the United States:

Dissection of the Push-Pull Theory

This report aims to provide insights into the historical shift of a large number of Chinese citizens' and their migration to the United States over the course of the past few centuries. The foundation of this work is based on the notion that all migration, whether it occurs on the local, national or international scale, usually occurs due to some combination of underlying factors of the philosophy of Push - Pull. For this report, Push Factors entail that some impelling reason such as demographic growth, low living standards, lack of economic opportunities, political repression, war, or even natural hazards or disasters made the people choose to leave their origin or host country. Pull Factors represent the attraction to a receiving country, often a major industrialized nation of the first world, by some perceived offering or opportunity.

These offerings could include but would not be limited to the demand new for labor, availability of land, good economic opportunities, political freedoms, better education, better medical care or even the idea of political or social stability. However, the theory of Push - Pull as it pertains to migration provides a stimulus that creates a need for an individual's decision to migrate. This decision usually is based on some contradicting or rational comparison of relative costs or benefits of not migrating out of the area - as well as choosing the final destination over some other alternative destination.

The key to this point is that a Push Pull theory does not explain why the Chinese choose the United States and other North American areas in Canada. The idea therefore was to rationally justify why so many Chinese chose America over other nations such as England or Germany. Of course, the general theory does not say all Chinese migrated to the American continent - obviously there are Chinese all over the world. but, a large number did migrate to the United States and this paper will focus on that mass migration.

Immigration History

China probably has the oldest culture in humankind and for most of its history, China represented a feudal society that was controlled thorough traditional roles and responsibilities that were based on age, sex, birth order, and social class. The nation was extremely isolationist and the West accordingly had very little to no contact with China for Centuries. Their inert homogeneous nature entailed criminal punishment to anyone who taught the Chinese languages to foreigners or even shared texts or books outside of the nation's boarders. "Historians have completed a great deal of research on the immigrant motivations for Chinese men. Shihshan Henry Tsai has pointed out that internal problems in China such as the rapid increase in population since the late seventeenth century and the land concentration had caused Chinese immigration to overseas." (Ling, 17)

Thus, when the first Chinese arrived in the United States in approximately 1847, the event was highly unusual in the sense of the Chinese national culture. These first Chinese to immigrate did so through a missionary in Massachusetts as an effort to open up Chinese boarder for trade with America. It was not until 1848 when true immigrants migrated to the continent and they consisted of only two men and a woman. These first true immigrants brought with them the art of silk weaving but their true intention was to work mining areas.

Around the early 1850', the gold rush served as the pull phenomena and the economically depressed Canton area of South China served as the push. The regular trade and shipping routes across the Pacific out of California took great fables of riches to be had to China and this lead to an influx of nearly twenty-five thousand Chinese to California in less than a year. The Chinese were accomplished miners and ironically the immigrants knew America as "Gam Saan," or the Great Gold Mountain. These new potential workers provided America with a source for cheap labor that was eventually taken advantage of by the Central Pacific Railroad system. The Push Pull model had worked to tie the immigrants to the new nation and economic conditions in China guaranteed that they did not wish to return to their place of origin.

The majority of the Chinese who migrated to the United States and Canada were extremely poor male villagers called, 'sojourners.' These sojourners left their country, wives and children with the intention of either striking it rich through the gold rush or at least putting together enough of a savings that would permit them to return to China and live more prosperously. The American people and the Chinese were obviously very different in nature, culture and beliefs and the racial characteristics. This lead to a plethora of issues and problems as Chinese sojourners followed the Chinese way and psychologically isolated themselves from American society. The sojourners naturally lived by their own values, norms, and attitudes that can be demonstrated for example by the need to dress in the Chinese fashion which included felt slippers, cotton blouse and round hats while also maintaining their long queues or braids.

These inherent cultural differences naturally lead to opposition between the new immigrants and the Americans. The modern day stereotypes of Chinese all working in the traditional women's roles of work also originated during this period. The gold rush was a very male dominated event and because men greatly outnumbered women, the opportunistic Chinese immigrants became the cooks, launderers, and household servants in the era. Americans at the point figured that the Chinese were depressing the salaries and pay scales and basically cutting the standard of living.

This again led to a backlash of violence against the new immigrants from China it required government intervention to curb the hostilities. Chinese immigration was then covered by a new treaty with China which in 1868 gave Chinese more privileged travel and residence status but did not legally permit them to naturalize as citizens. Actually, they had favored nation status but that did not stop the government from creating the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which was aimed at barring any large immigration policies or wishes by Chinese. "The Act barred the further entry of Chinese male laborers (and subsequently their wives) and prevented the Chinese from becoming naturalized citizens. The combined effect of these two aspects of Exclusion along with the enforcement of anti-miscegenation laws in many Western U.S. states severely restricted family formation and the emergence of a second generation." (Chew and Liu) the migration entailed that between 1908 and 1930, more than seventy thousand Chinese left the United States and almost fifty thousand arrived in America.

The gold rush is the more popular reason for migration by Chinese immigrants to arrive in the United States and Canada, but Hawaii also was an instrumental part of the Chinese numbers escalating in the census. "From 1848 till the turn of the twentieth century, Chinese migrants were a significant portion of the labor force in Hawaii and the Pacific West Coast. They played a prominent role in building the economic infrastructure (notably in mining, agriculture, and transportation) in these regions as well as establishing ethnic enclaves that still persist. These contributions were made possible by the relatively unrestricted migration of Chinese into the United States until 1882, when Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act." (Chew and Liu) One major migrationary movement entailed the Royal Commissioner of Immigration to attempt to find a cheap labor for the Hawaiian sugar plantations. He in turn sent two ships that returned with 500 Chinese workers back to Hawaii. These workers arrived with a five-year contract to Hawaii to work as needed in the fields. This quick increase in the percentage of Chinese in Hawaii made them over twenty percent of the islands' population and eventually led to an increased in the Chinese presence throughout Hawaii.

The Hawaiian government felt it was right to use the workers in the fields but one the contracts were up they did everything in power to keep the Chinese from becoming g full fledged members of the island. This included bringing Japanese to substitute for Chinese as well as using Filipinos for the same purpose. In 1903, Hawaii literally created a law that stipulated that only United States citizens or anyone who was eligible to become a citizen which meant non-Asians could become employed in the Hawaiian territory.

Metropolitan areas became the sanctuaries for the masses of Chinese immigrants. In San Francisco for example, the notion of a 'Chinatown' implied that Chinese in America were in charge of a world within a world. Chinatowns that sprung up in many major western cities were home to many legal and illegal activities. The distinction was that the activities were on y illegal in the eyes of America but theses same activities were very legal in China. San Francisco was also the newly established home of the merchant association called the 'tongs.' The association was thought to be after a betterment of merchants… [END OF PREVIEW]

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