Chinese communities

Chinese communities
   Reliable and accurate numbers for ethnic Chinese living in the UK are notoriously difficult to come by, as the community is scattered and widely dispersed and contact with local government structures is low. However, most surveys, including the mid-1980s report on the British Chinese community by the Home Office, put the figure at over 100,000 with the heaviest concentrations in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Cardiff. Despite the fact that this is one of the largest ethnic groups in the UK (fully one percent of the London population, for instance), the figure is small when one considers the size of the native Chinese population and the long colonial relationship between the two countries.
   Chinese people first began to arrive in the UK in the nineteenth century as seafarers (employed at a fraction of the cost of non-Chinese) on boats plying their trade mainly between the major port cities of southern China (Canton and Hong Kong) and London, Liverpool and Bristol. Many Chinese escaped the harsh conditions of life at sea by staying on at British ports when their ships sailed. Liverpool claims to have the oldest Chinatown in Europe following the founding, after the Opium Wars, of the Blue Funnel Line and the ‘first direct steamship link between Britain and China’. Small numbers of Chinese settled in the South Docks area of Liverpool around Cleveland Square and Pitt Street and in the Limehouse area of London, and established small service businesses mainly for the transient Chinese seafaring population. Initially the immigrant Chinese were known for their candlemaking, boarding houses and launderettes, which could be set up with little capital in terraced houses and run as a family business. Numbers fluctuated with political events in China and Britain and reached a peak during the Second World War. Because they were concentrated around the docks, the Second World War wiped out much of the original Chinatowns in London, Liverpool and other major cities. In the postwar period the profile and location of Chinese communities began to change. Large numbers of people from the New Territories of Hong Kong (who currently make up about 90 percent of ethnic Chinese living in the UK) arrived and settled in the late 1950s and early 1960s after the collapse of agriculture there, and these communities were swollen by Malaysian, Singaporean and Vietnamese refugees over the next twenty years. London’s Chinatown moved from Limehouse to Soho, Liverpool’s from Cleveland Square to the Nelson Street area, Manchester became the second largest Chinatown in the country and much of the emphasis changed to catering and restaurants. These new Chinese helped, along with immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, to revolutionize the postwar eating habits of British people and the Chinese ‘chippy’ became a common sight in most of the country’s city centres and suburban streets (there are over seventy Chinese restaurants in London’s Soho alone). While the Cantonese (later Sichuan and Beijing) style of cooking food was imported, the sauces were made sharper and sweeter for British palates. Chinese immigrants also brought with them medical ‘alternatives’ —notably acupuncture — which have made significant inroads into mainstream medical practice in Britain. Despite some second-generation Chinese entering professions like accountancy and law, the overwhelming concentration of Britain’s Chinese population is in the catering trade (some 90 percent by most estimates). Their relative cultural isolation has been the subject of some speculation and is often ascribed to the cultural preferences of the Chinese themselves, in particular their reliance on their own family networks. For instance, the Runnymede Research Report, in its summary of the Home Office Committee Report on the Chinese community, stated: Chinese people from Hong Kong have been hardly anglicized at all in the century and a half since Hong Kong island became a colony. This can more easily be appreciated if one compares them with Caribbean people, of any sort of ethnic descent, or with people from India…. But the Chinese are not especially interested in influencing other people nor do they readily accept non-Chinese influences on themselves. However, Chinese people living in Britain have themselves challenged this account and pointed out that the profile of the Chinese population in other Western countries like the USA is quite different from the UK. These accounts blame a combination of factors for the isolation of the Chinese community, which include institutionalized racism and the ‘restrictive system of immigration controls and work permit quotas’ which has forced Chinese immigrants to fall back on family support structures. Britain has, according to the Chinese Information and Advice Centre, at best reluctantly accepted its obligations to its former colonial dependants and a succession of strict immigration controls since 1962 have left many Chinese in the UK in a kind of legal limbo which has been an important element in their lack of access to central services. This problem has been exacerbated by the state’s policy of placing refugees (such as the 20,000 Chinese-Vietnamese who came here in the 1970s) in remote parts of Britain. Britain’s policy towards the Hong Kong handover to China in 1997 seemed to confirm this account. Most Hong Kong Chinese were refused British passports, and those who came to the UK mainly included members of the former Hong Kong police, army and colonial bureaucracy fleeing possible retribution by the communist government. Many of these new Chinese who did not find a home with Chinese already living in the UK settled in Milton Keynes.
   Note: Thanks to David Tan, Chinese Liaison Officer for the City of Westminster, for his help with this survey.
   Further reading
    Runnymede Research Report (1985) The Chinese Community in Britain, London: Runnymede Trust.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

Игры ⚽ Нужно сделать НИР?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Chinese American history — is the history of Chinese Americans or the history of ethnic Chinese in the United States. Chinese immigration to the U.S. consisted of three major waves, with the first beginning in the 19th century. Chinese immigrants in the 19th century worked …   Wikipedia

  • Chinese Cambodians — 柬埔寨華人 柬埔寨华人 Chinese and Sino Khmer children watching a dragon dance procession in Phnom Penh. Total population 1,180,000 (est.) …   Wikipedia

  • Chinese immigration to the United States — consists of three major waves with the first beginning in the early 19th century. For nearly two centuries, the history of Chinese immigration to the United States has witnessed hardship as well as success.The Chinese have been arriving in large… …   Wikipedia

  • Chinese New Zealander — Chinese New Zealanders …   Wikipedia

  • Chinese people in Germany — Total population 71,639 (2004)[1] (Includes only People s Republic of China nationals) Regions with significant populations Berlin[2], Fran …   Wikipedia

  • Chinese people in Spain — Chinese people on the street in Madrid, Spain. Total population 145,425 (2009)[1] …   Wikipedia

  • Chinese Canadian — Chinese Canadians …   Wikipedia

  • Chinese Australian — Chinese Australians 華裔澳洲人 华裔澳洲人 …   Wikipedia

  • Chinese Animal Protection Network — (CAPN) is a non profit animal protection organization, and the first Chinese network for animal protection. As an organization founded by native Chinese people, at its core, there are some of the most dedicated Chinese activists. CAPN is well… …   Wikipedia

  • Chinese Filipino — Chinese Filipino …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”