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161 7 Conclusion Mobility and Cultural Control C hinatown, Manhattan, 7 March 2001. At the Yidong shopping center at 88 East Broadway, Fujianese vendors sell international telephone cards. One vendor stocks fifty-one kinds, many with Chinese text and distinctive design. On one card, called Great Wall, Deng Xiaoping extends his congratulations with the return of Hong Kong to the Motherland. Phone cards embody the way globalized communication technologies have created unexpected new markets for ethnicity and nationalism, and also the way the mobility of technologies is intertwined with human mobility. International calling is now a largely ethnic business that targets Mexicans, Chinese, or Ukrainians in migrant neighborhoods across the globe. In the United States, at least 40 percent of those working in the prepaid card industry are said to be immigrants (Sachs 2002). They target certain groups by offering special low rates to particular countries, and even provinces such as Fujian. For low-income migrants, calling family and friends is often the only nonessential spending , and the cards do not require registration that deters undocumented migrants from getting home phones. This particular vendor, from Fuzhou, is a woman around twenty-five years old. She came to America five years ago, following her parents who had since gone back to China with her two children. Her situation is typical for the neighborhood. At the nearby American East Fuzhou Restaurant , the waitress comes from a township to the north of Fuzhou; she has a nine-year-old child back home. She came to the United States to join her husband, an illegal immigrant, but her brother-in-law, who had less money and could not afford passage to America, went to England instead. She phones him every week. Another phone card customer, who like the two women does not have legal residency papers, paid $40,000, an amount frequently mentioned in connection with illegal immigration from China, to come to the United States in 1994. He calls his friends in England once every two weeks. He tells them not to come to America, because “the weather is bad and life is bad”—he works twelve to thirteen hours every day—and if they were caught they would be sent back to China. Around the corner on Elizabeth Street, the Houyu Overseas Chinese Association of America (Meiguo Houyu Huaqiao Lianyihui), one of around four dozen organizations in New York founded by migrants from Fujian in the last two decades, celebrates its sixteenth anniversary at Jing Fong Restaurant. Outside, the restaurant is inconspicuous, but inside it displays all the latest splendors of modernity one finds in Chinese cities: an escalator leads to two large halls with marble floors and gilt crystal chandeliers. In Chinese newspapers, Jing Fong advertises itself as the largest restaurant in Chinatown. Most of its business comes from Fujianese wedding parties, at which elaborately posed photos are taken and sent back home. Since the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have come to the United States from Fujian, mostly via New York and largely illegally (see Pieke et al. 2004). Houyu (“Monkey Island”), in Changle Prefecture near Fuzhou, is one of the major sending areas of migrants to the United States. After listening first to the PRC and then the U.S. national anthems, the Chinese consulgeneral mounts the stage, decorated with huge American and Chinese flags, to thank the association for its contribution to homeland construction . The association’s secretary-general responds that seeing the great Conclusion 163 Fatherland ever more prosperous and strong is their common desire. Someone reports on the construction of a culture palace in Houyu, for which the association has raised $900,000. After the speeches, the evening continues with a show of nationalities’ arts, including Han dancers performing flirtatious pop dances in Uighur costumes. (A major event in China may have the luxury of engaging dancers of various nationalities, but in this small troupe, the majority Han have to perform the roles of the minorities.) For my benefit, the chairman of the Fuzhou United Friendship Association of New York, a construction entrepreneur, points to the stage: “This is the art our Chinese ancestors left to us.” A vice president of the Fu Tsing American Assocation (representing migrants from Fuqing Prefecture) sits at one of the tables. A former teacher in his mid-thirties, he came to America illegally eleven years ago. “Do you think the bosses around this table all have papers? . . . In America, even millionaires can be without papers!” With officials from...


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