A Chinese Immigrant Community
Flushing is one of the two main neighborhoods for Chinese immigrants in New York City; the other one is Chinatown, which is in Manhattan. Flushing, as a newer community of Chinese immigrants, attracts a different set of newcomers. Late 19th and early 20th century Chinese immigrants came at first to the West Coast of the United States, both to labor in the construction of national railroads, and to catch the windfall of California’s Gold Rush.
These immigrants, like many of the time period, were seeking an escape from the toil of farm life in poverty-stricken rural China. Naturally, people still leave their native countries to offer cheap labor in exchange for an opportunity for a better life. Immigrants who do often did not have resources to acquire an education or the knowledge of a skilled trade. Modern-day Flushing, however, attracts a different set of Chinese immigrants.
Chinese immigrants in the United States have encountered various obstacles within the United States as well as in their native country. Many of the Chinese immigrants who live elsewhere in New York left from Taiwan (also known as the Republic of China.) Obstacles that prevented emigration included the Cultural Revolution, which made it hard to leave China. The Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in 1882, also exacerbated immigration; this simply banned more Chinese immigrants from coming in and placed new requirements on immigrants already present. These obstacles were eventually removed; the Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943 through the Magnuson Act. Then Communist Mainland China—which is now called The People’s Republic of China—relaxed its iron cage on its population after President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, making immigration an easier and more-friendly process for Chinese citizens.
These changing circumstances account for the shift in demographics among Chinese immigrants of recent decades. China’s new open diplomatic relationship with the US has resulted in an influx of urban immigrants from Mainland China. The new influx, that largely composes the Chinese population of Flushing, is made up largely of educated, middle-class Mandarin speakers from large cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong. Why does Flushing attract these business-class people? In part, it’s the thriving business in Flushing (see business page) that attracts them, and then, it is an immigration cycle in itself—the already large Chinese population of Flushing attracts more Chinese people. As a result, Flushing is filled residentially and economically with Chinese business and Chinese residents. (See Demographics)
Binder, Frederick M. All the Nations Under Heaven. Columbia University Press: Chichester, West Sussex, New York: 1995