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The New Chinese America

Class, Economy, and Social Hierarchy

Xiaojian Zhao

Publication Year: 2010

The New Chinese America explores the historical, economic, and social foundations of the Chinese American community, revealing the emergence of a new social hierarchy after the 1965 Immigration Act. Xiaojian Zhao uses class analysis to illuminate the difficulties of everyday survival for poor and undocumented immigrants and analyzes the process through which social mobility occurs. While the growth of the ethnic economy enhances ethnic bonds by increasing mutual dependencies among different groups of Chinese Americans, it also determines the limits of possibility for various individuals depending on their socioeconomic and immigration status.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. ix-xi

The research of this book would not have been possible without the generous support and assistance of many individuals. I owe thanks to all the men and women who participated in this study and shared life stories that included legally sensitive details and were sometimes emotionally difficult to recount, although few of their real names will appear in ...

Note on Transliteration

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p. xiii

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Introduction: Rethinking Chinese America

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pp. 1-16

Schools were in full session in late April. Tests were scheduled and papers and projects were due soon. But few graduating seniors with college admissions in hand would let schoolwork spoil their celebratory mood. The air was filled with a palpable excitement. The few...

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1. Contemporary Chinese American Population: The Documented and the Invisible

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pp. 17-38

Yamei Zhu was born in 1963 in Shanghai, China’s most populous city. An only child, she was pampered by her parents. After high school, Yamei got a job at a transportation company and worked her way up to become its controller. She married an electrician in 1988 and moved in with her in-laws. “My father said that he wouldn’t let me marry unless it...

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2. Drawing Lines of Class Distinction

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pp. 39-73

As she reflected on her ten-month tryout as a member of a Chinese Presbyterian church in Houston in late 1994 and early 1995, Min reminisced about a rather uncomfortable experience that led to her departure. She was thirty-five then and recently divorced. After living in Atlanta, Georgia, for five years, she wanted to leave the past...

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3. "Serve the People": The Ethnic Economy

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pp. 74-101

World War II triggered the greatest social changes the Chinese American community had ever seen. Back home in San Francisco after three years of naval service that took him to several European cities, Jimmy Leong was restless. “My father expected me to help out in the garment shop, but my mother knew that my heart was not...

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4. The "Spirit of Changle": Constructing a Regional Identity

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pp. 102-131

Most of the signs for the Chinese American associations in New York’s Chinatown are permanently carved on stone walls or tiled on huge buildings with Chinese architectural touches, to signify their long history and prominence in their community as well as their control over land and buildings. The eye-catching awning of the...

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5. Surviving Poverty in an Ethnic Social Hierarchy

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pp. 132-159

Baoshan Li, a stocky, self-employed construction worker in his mid-thirties, gained permanent resident status under the 1992 Chinese Student Protection Act. Nevertheless, he has not gathered the courage to apply for U.S. citizenship: the thought of being questioned by non-Chinese immigration officials is too intimidating. After...

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Conclusion: Inclusion or Exclusion?

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pp. 160-165

November 2008 was unusually cold. New York was hit by a heavy snowstorm, adding extra chill to the economic downturn. The nation’s job market suffered the largest one-month drop since 1974 with the loss of a staggering 530,000 positions.1 A recession, which had started in the prior year, would soon be declared by the National Bureau...


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pp. 167-183

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 185-192


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pp. 193-201

E-ISBN-13: 9780813549125
E-ISBN-10: 0813549124
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813546919
Print-ISBN-10: 0813546915

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 7 tables, 1 graph
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 642200646
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The New Chinese America

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Ethnic relations.
  • Dominance (Psychology) -- United States -- History.
  • Immigrants -- United States -- History.
  • Social classes -- United States -- History.
  • Community life -- United States -- History.
  • Chinese Americans -- History.
  • Chinese Americans -- Social conditions.
  • Chinese Americans -- Economic conditions.
  • United States -- Social conditions -- Ethnic relations.
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