A New Community
By the end
of the 1960s, the Chinese American community had been transformed.
After long decades of slow growth under tight constraints, Chinese
immigration exploded, and brought a new, and very different, group
of immigrants to America's shores.
A new immigration
law passed in the mid-60s changed the way the U.S. counted its
immigrant population. This law, the Immigration and Naturalization
Act of 1965, allowed far more skilled workers and family members
to enter the country than ever before, and eliminated the old
quota system that gave preference to western Europeans. As a result,
the Chinese American population in the U.S. almost doubled within
new surge of growth, the community changed. This new group of
immigrants did not come from the same few rural provinces of China
as the immigrants of the 1800s and early 1900s had. Instead, many
came from urban Hong Kong and Taiwan. They had a different outlook
on life than the earlier immigrants, who had created slow-paced,
close-knit communities. The Hong Kong and Taiwan immigrants spoke
different dialects, had more exposure to urban fashion and music,
and had greater expectations of social mobility. Some were professionals,
and they and their families integrated easily in cities throughout
the United States. Others with less education and fewer skills
tended to live in Chinatowns, and were subject to lower wages
and worse living conditions than the previous generations. From
the 1980s, many more people from China, including university students,
joined the migration to the U.S., and many settled here permanently.
As the flow of immigrants from Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong continues
to remain steady, the Chinese American communities in both large
cities and suburbs continue to adapt to the challenges that come
with a growing and diverse culture.
In the meantime,
Chinese immigrants and their descendants have had an increasingly
great impact on U.S. culture. From the films of director Ang Lee
and the novels of Amy Tan to the architecture of I.M. Pei and
the hip-hop turntable skills of Kid Koala, Chinese Americans are
becoming more prominent with every passing year, particularly
in fashion and youth culture. As the community continues to grow,
and as more movies, pop songs, and magazines that target young
Asian American audiences begin to emerge, the role of Chinese
Americans in American cultural life seems only likely to increase.
at the difficulties Chinese immigrants faced in their first hundred
years in the U.S., would you have predicted their eventual success?
What do you think accounts for this community's survival?