Between 1978 and 2002, China sent 580,000 students and scholars to study abroad. About two thirds of these students and scholars adjusted their immigrant status and became permanent residents of their residing societies, especially the United States that has received around forty to fifty percent of Chinese students abroad. This dissertation focuses on Chinese student migrants as a case of contemporary international professional migration and studies their mobility, identities, and community formation from historical and transnational perspectives. It begins with 1978 when China began its open-door and reform policies and U.S.-China relations were normalized. It examines the changing Chinese policies on migration and the increasing attention China paid to student migrants, revealing how student migrants' transnational mobility was tied to China's political and economic reforms. It then discusses how the preference for skilled and professional migrants in U.S. immigration laws developed over time and what Chinese and Asian student and professional migration revealed about post-1965 U.S. national identity and international relations. It also examines how professional migrants, with better social mobility than past generations of migrants, faced both opportunities and challenges in forming their local communities in post-1965 U.S. society. This dissertation in the end looks at the return and circular migration of Chinese student and professional migrants. It revises the conventional framework of studying immigration as a linear process and argues that for a large number of returning Chinese student migrants, citizenship is not a signifier of assimilation or of permanent settlement but a status used for transnational mobility transcending the national boundaries which define and justify citizenship. This dissertation draws from sociological, anthropological, and political science studies of recent migrants while providing historical perspective on the recent past. Its analysis is based on a wide variety of written documents in both Chinese and English, including censuses, surveys, immigration policies and laws, congressional records, government publications, media reports, immigrant organization records, as well as migrants' online discussions. Another key source is fieldwork in both China and the United States, including visits to migrants-related organizations and sixty interviews with student migrants and returnees in the two countries.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2009. Major: History. Advisors: Erika Lee and Barbara Y. Welke. 1 computer file (PDF); xv, 339 pages, appendices 1-2.
Mobility, community and identity: Chinese student/professional migration to the United States since 1978 and transnational citizenship..
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