Chinese Xin Yimin and Their Descendants in France: Claiming Belonging and Challenging the Host Country’s Integration Model
Journal of Chinese Overseas
2 (November 2020)
Chinese immigrants, descendants, integration, France
This “generational turn” constitutes the point of departure for this special issue. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews, the five articles analyze various forms of discrimination experienced by the new Chinese migrants—first and second generation included—and their strategies of resistance. They offer different perspectives on the political socialization and mobilization of the Chinese and their descendants in France: while Juan Du, Ya-Han Chuang and Aurore Merle analyze the mobilization processes and patterns of first-generation Chinese immigrants in the “banlieues rouges” (red/ communist suburbs) of Paris where many Chinese migrants live and work today and face cohabitation and safety difficulties in relation to other population groups, Hélène Le Bail and Ya-Han Chuang show how Chinese and Asian descendants (second or 1.5-generation immigrants) use social networks to share their feelings about their belonging and discuss the discrimination they suffer, with the online gatherings leading to anti-racist legal actions. These five articles provide insight into how various collectives of Chinese-French activists, from different generations and diverse social backgrounds—residents, small-scale entrepreneurs, marginalized inhabitants, and students, as well as the media and cultural elite—and with different resources and repertoires of actions, challenge central institutions in France’s democratic life: the city hall and its mayor, the police, the courts and the media. Through their actions, not only do these concerned and mobilized citizens become more familiar with French civic life but they also contribute to transforming and enriching it, by calling out racism and discrimination and advocating new patterns of inclusion and citizenship. Yong Li’s contribution highlights the individual processes that Chinese graduates go through to identify and call out the racial discrimination and sometimes outright racism that they experience in the workplace and the responses they develop in relation to their bosses and colleagues. This growing consciousness facilitates collective mobilization against anti-Chinese racism, as analyzed by Le Bail and Chuang, and has led to alliances with other anti-racist organizations and actors. Zhipeng Li’s article, which takes a detailed look at two overseas-Chinese ethnic media organizations in France, shows how these media provide Chinese xin yimin with a platform to express themselves and share common feelings of belonging/non-belonging in France and China, thus contributing to the organization of community life. As Du and Chuang and Merle illustrate in their articles, Chinese ethnic or community-based mobilizations are not an expression of communitarianism or of separatism from the national (French) community; on the contrary, they collectively voice a wish to be an integral part of the host society. In this sense, they largely contribute, in conjunction with the actions of other groups of citizens, to reframing the French republican model by demonstrating that universalism and equality are compatible with multiculturalism and diversity. There is still a long way to go and the various forms of political participation of the “Chinese-French” will continue to require further scrutiny.