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chinese immigrant in QueenS NY

Chinese Immigrant in Queens NY

The Chinese are the most numerous nation on the planet. Therefore, it is not surprising that the foreign Chinese diaspora is the largest one in the world. According to the statistics from the Taiwanese Ministry of Chinese Foreign Affairs, the Chinese population in two American continents was about 7.25 million people. The migration of Chinese to the United States began in the early 1800s. Even now, it continues. Over the years, Chinese migrants have managed to turn from a cheap labor force into one of the most educated people and rich businessmen in the USA. Now, they can proudly call themselves Chinese Americans despite all troubles they have had to endure. In this essay, the reasons for such a large migration of Asian people to the USA, their cultural background, and the formation of immigrant Chinese families in New York will be discussed.
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The Reasons for Chinese Migration to the USA and the Waves of Migration

During the Gold Rush, many Chinese immigrants worked in mining, manufacturing, and railroad construction. Many people tried to escape from China’s economic instability, caused by the Qing dynasty. Chinese migrants moved to the USA to earn some money and help their poor families at home, while others eventually planned to return home with the money they had earned in the USA. Many people left their homeland and moved to the USA because it was considered not only a symbol of monetary prosperity but also the hope of freedom from prejudice. However, the most important reason for Chinese migration was the economic difficulties, caused by the growing British control after China’s defeat in the Opium War (1839-1842). Eventually, the US government started looking for a way to stop the continuous and unhindered flow of new Chinese migrants to the United States. Thus, several restrictive legislative acts were adopted. Thus, in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act became the first and only law of the United States that restricted the rights of representatives of a particular nationality. Since the adoption of this Act, Chinese Americans became the subject of constant persecution and hardship that slowed down only in 1943 when US Congress approved the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act (US Department of State, n.d.). In 1950, about 118,000 Chinese lived in the United States. The majority of them were the descendants of the first migrants as well as contracted workers and military men who had arrived in the United States during the Second World War. Later, the policy of liberalization and simplification of the procedure of entry resulted in a jump in the migration of ethnic Chinese to the United States. For example, between 1870 and 1880, 138,941 immigrants arrived from China in the USA. After the construction of the main roads, the Chinese population began to engage in agriculture, supplying the country’s markets with food. The Chinese, unlike Whites and African Americans (since 1870) did not have the right to obtain US citizenship. In 2010, the Census reported that Chinese-Americans constituted the largest group of ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia (more than 1,6 million people; in 2016, that number jumped to 2,323 million).

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Nowadays, many Chinese come to the USA only for a limited time because of business or educational purposes. Another factor that influences the increasing immigration from China includes flexible US immigration policies. Thus, the USA tries to make its policies more competitive to attract educated immigrants. In large American cities, the majority of the Chinese population was centered in specific boroughs, called Chinatowns. Even until the end of World War II, the government of the United States ignored these areas. At the end of the 19th – the first half of the 20th centuries, these quarters became a permanent residence for the Chinese, detached from their homeland (Gibson & Jung, 2006). The reason why the wage of Chinese immigrants was higher than that of others was that they had come to the USA a long time ago and remained to live in this country because they were not afraid of any type of work. They understood that while living in the United States they could supply for their families in China better. They could give their children a better education. Moreover, in many boroughs of New York, the first migrants, who had already rooted in the city, created their communities and made new waves of Chinese immigrants feel comfortable there.

A Chinese Family in Queens, New York

In New York City, the Chinese population has never been limited to Chinatown as it was in some areas of the West. Thus, the Chinese spread around different boroughs, especially in Queens and Brooklyn. Queens was considered one of the largest of the five boroughs in New York, where 139,820 Chinese were counted in the 2000 census.

Queens is recognized as the center for immigrants from Taiwan who are richer than immigrants from mainland China, so the latter choose to live in Chinatown. The majority of the population is centered near Queens Boulevard through Elmhurst, Corona, and especially Flushing (Originally known as little Taipei). They can find there everything of international business services, from banking to shipping. There is also a good place for people who do not speak English because, in this borough, all everyday activities could be performed completely in Chinese or Taiwanese (Shama, n.d.). The foreign citizens of the Flushing area have a language called Mandarin Chinese. Thus, the district became the new ‘Mandarin Town’ in New York City. Queens has another Chinatown, and it is called Elmhurst. This area is known to be quite diverse, where different Chinese cultures coexist with Latino enclaves.

The life of the Chinese inhabitants of Queens was very simple, and there was an explanation for this. People spent very little time at home. People who had no families had to share a small room with 10-12 roommates. The kitchen and the bathroom were also shared. Going outside Chinatown was risky. For example, Queens resident Gim Chang said that he rarely left Chinatown alone, only when he had to buy something in the center of the city, but it was dangerous there for the Chinese, especially in the evening (Uschinamediabrief, 2010). Mutually supportive relationships distinguished the Chinese from other immigrants. They created their infrastructure, starting from the schools, where lessons were given in the Chinese language, to their own publishing houses and operas. Thus, Chinese immigrants tended to form and maintain business and trade relations with each other. In addition, they joined the district (huiguan) and family (gongsuo) communities, organized according to their boroughs in China.

The mining of gold and the construction of railways ceased to be the main means of earning a living. Now, the Chinese were hired for small enterprises, where they worked in the labor-intensive production of clothes, wool, cigars, and shoes. Due to the growth of megapolises, people were able to find jobs in a new sphere – the service sector. Due to this factor, housekeeping and service trades have become the most popular activities among able-bodied Chinese immigrants. Chinese Americans tried to invest their hard-earned money in their children as they wanted to have a better future for them. Parents taught their children Chinese literacy and culture, sending them to Chinese schools in the community. At the same time, they encouraged them to receive American education and seek marriage to non-Chinese. Thus, mixed marriages with whites became commonplace. Nevertheless, many Chinese still preferred to find wives in their cultural setting (Uschinamediabrief, 2010). In such a way, they tried to maintain their traditions even in another country.

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Cultural Background of Immigrants in Queens

Chinese immigrants finally set their life and adapted to life in New York despite the strong discrimination they had experienced for a long time. Religion was one of the most important things that had an impact on the formation of Chinese communities in the USA. Moreover, it united Chinese immigrants and helped them overcome any problems. The first Chinese immigrants usually did not betray their traditions. They continued to believe in Confucianism, Buddhism, or Daoism. At first, only some immigrants converted to Christianity. They had already been converted to Protestantism in China. Their difficulties with integration were exemplified in the mid-20th century when only a few Chinese living in New York could speak English. However, the new generation differed from the older generations significantly. Not only had they mastered the English language perfectly, but they also became the most educated in comparison with the other foreign and US-born immigrants. Thus, about half of the Chinese had at least a bachelor’s degree and they were likely to have a professional degree. Many Chinese came to the USA as college students or they were already high-skilled workers with a university degree. Then, they submit a request for US permanent residency. Chinese immigrants are in demand in different spheres of employment because they ask for less money for the same work. In Queens, many of them work in such areas as management, trade, or service (Shama, n.d.). However, this borough also has the Taiwanese elite, young people with high education, and they want to be separated from the traditional working-class immigrants in Chinatown. Therefore, nowadays in the Queens area, there are 2 types of Chinese migrants – the descendants of first migrants and rich people with financial resources who are willing to invest in the USA and set a profitable business there.


During the long period of its history, the United States became the top destination for Chinese immigrants. New York, and Queens particularly, became a home for thousands of them. Local Chinatown was founded in the second half of the previous decade, when the Chinese, who spoke the Mandarin dialect and who mainly came from Taiwan, began to settle there. Over time, the district expanded, and immigrants from all regions of China and its former colonies began to migrate there. Now, the population is mixed, and the area is considered the second of the largest Chinatowns in New York. At first, Chinese immigrants did not see any hospitality and goodwill, and they were denied the right to obtain American citizenship. Even though US society had many prejudices against them, they managed to remain in the country and transform into the most valuable workforce due to their hard work and persistence. There is a thing that distinguishes all Chinese immigrants among others – no matter how far from their homeland they might be, they will never forget their traditions and never abnegate their faith.

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