While China’s presence is so cumbersome, its emigration to the west has been analogously silent. The country of records has extended its shadow over the rest of the world, while its children labor and prosper in the cracks of European or American cities. They don’t work in the countryside and rarely as freelance professionals. The majority works in the service industry, trade, restaurants, and in manufacturing they manage directly. The Southeast Asian diaspora represents the most rich and dynamic segment of society. Despite frequent oppression, they succeeded in preserving their identity. In some countries like Singapore, they are even the political majority; in other ASEAN countries they constitute the trunk from which economic fruits germinate. They are present, strong and supportive. Their social traits are known even from their emigration to the US: from the coolies that built the railroads to the disparaging use of “Chinaman,” to opium dens in literature and their broad-spectrum, contagious industriousness. Today, emigration is much more massive: it’s palpable and an obvious subject of study. In any case, Chinese communities seem invisible in cities. Numerous analyses reveal the strong differences between the economic value of various Chinatowns and their repercussions in society. The first, calculated even by default, is decidedly higher than the second. The visible impact is immediate, but the social impact is harder to find. They forgo the red lanterns, but they don’t forget their origin or destination.
Chinese communities tend not to integrate. Resistance certainly exists on behalf of the cities that host them, but this can also be applied to other ethnic groups that participate to a greater extent in the host’s society, mix more easily, and are more numerous and noisy. These other groups renounce their cultures more willingly, enriching it with other contaminants. It’s difficult to chime in with the various Chinatowns—even if located in the city centers—and they appear mysterious and impenetrable. There are two principal explanations for this auto-reclusion: a strong patriotic pride and the prevalent economic ends of their immigration. The first stimulates them to live in China—with all its offshoots—even when abroad. The food, consumption, medicine and even undertakers are an expression of this. Chinese residences are obviously not ghettos, but it’s difficult to glimpse individual success, a commonality of intents with other immigrants, and participation in the political life of the community or country. Clearly, exceptions and progressions exist, but the recorded phenomena are still insufficient. The economy is the motivation for Chinese emigration—this is a statistic proven by numerous studies. The finish line is rapid accumulation of wealth to improve an individual and his family’s quality of life. They work in distressing conditions, they face expensive trips, and they tolerate being disconnected from their home country as a shortcut to wealth. Time and space to socialize don’t exist, nor the willingness to give up the past. The course of the day hinges on work, even when one should be relaxing at home. Therefore, integration is difficult for host countries. Even cultured people, far from xenophobic, who regard China with sympathy, have difficulty imagining a relationship that transcends monetary aspects: paying for a service, whether in a supermarket, restaurant or ready-to-wear clothing. It’s a worrying sign of poor integration in the frame of a larger contradiction: a large country that reaps an advantage from globalization without being globalized in its attitudes.