Students keep Chinatowns alive as culture spreads

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-5-2 21:43:01

An recent article by Rong Xiaoqing in your newspaper talked about the worries among Asians about the disappearance of Chinatowns in the US.

Although the report released by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund confirmed Bonnie Tsui's research on how the Asian populations in the three biggest Chinatowns on the East Coast had dropped about half from 2000 to 2010, Rong listed many contrary examples suggesting that Chinatowns are "multiplying and expanding" instead.

I totally agree. Looking for opportunities to take a ride on the China bandwagon, developed countries, including the US, are seeing increasing Chinatowns in recent years. This trend is expected to continue in the near future.

First of all, as the Chinese economy matures, the demand for education abroad is getting stronger in China. In addition, the US, troubled by declining domestic enrollment, is eager to take more full-fee paying overseas students. The total number of Chinese students studying in the US surged from 81,127 in 2007 to 304,040 in 2014.

The growing number of Chinese students helps to revitalize Chinatowns abroad.

Some may argue that these students, influenced by Western culture at a young age, are culturally adaptable to the US and thus are more willing to engage in cross-national activities than sticking together with other Chinese. Compared with their predecessors, the newest generation of Chinese students may have less national identity, and thus may show little interest in Chinatowns.

It is true that these students have developed a global mindset.

However, there is nothing wrong with them staying in their comfort zone, especially when they are home sick. Chinatowns are like a sanctuary for them where they can freely communicate in Chinese, enjoy Chinese food and celebrating the Lunar New Year with their compatriots. Chinatowns provide psychological comfort to these young students, some of whom may be on their maiden trip abroad.

Besides, a rising China means tremendous economic opportunities. Just as Rong rightly argues that the "accumulated wealth" and the "keen passion of the Chinese for investing in the US" may make a difference. To attract immigrants and investment from China, local governments provide supporting facilities to Chinese, building and rebuilding Chinatowns.

Governmental support plays a significant part in revitalizing Chinese communities. Compared with the past, the developed nations attach more importance to Chinese, providing them with more convenient living environments.

For instance, salesmen in many luxury shops are more popular if they can speak Cantonese or Putonghua. A growing number of overseas stores now support UnionPay. Some universities even offer Chinese students days off during Lunar New Year. All these demonstrate that Chinese are becoming more important consumers in the Western nations, which has instilled more impetus in the development of Chinatowns.

In addition, more Chinese are now able and willing to migrate to developed regions for better living conditions. Many developed nations are seeing an increasing number of upper-class Chinese, who are financially able to organize various activities for Chinese, for instance, the traditional lion dance. Chinese culture, in this way, is gradually permeating into Western countries, creating a favorable environment for the revitalization of Chinatowns.

Rong argues that as long as China keeps striding forward, Chinatowns certainly will not die in the foreseeable future. With the growing number of Chinese students and migrants, Chinese culture is permeating into Western society. China is increasingly economically appealing to the developed nations as well. All these contribute to the revitalization of Chinatowns.

Little Jelly, a freelance writer based in Beijing

Posted in: Letters

blog comments powered by Disqus