International Migrants in China's Global City: The New Shanghailanders, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

International Migrants in China's Global City

The New Shanghailanders, 1st Edition

By James Farrer


216 pages

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Hardback: 9780815382638
pub: 2019-01-10
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pub: 2019-01-04
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Long a source of migrants, China has now become a migrant destination. In 2016, government sources reported that nearly 900,000 foreigners were working in China, though international migrants remain a tiny presence at the national level. Shanghai is China’s most globalized city and has attracted a full quarter of Mainland China’s foreign resident population.

This book analyzes the development of Shanghai’s expatriate communities, from their role in the opening up of Shanghai to foreign investment in the early 1980s through to the explosive growth after China joined the World Trade Organization in 2000. Based on over 400 interviews and 20 years of ethnographic fieldwork in Shanghai, it argues that international migrants play an important qualitative role in urban life. It explains the lifestyles of Shanghai’s skilled migrants; their positions in economic, social, sexual and cultural fields; their strategies for integration into Chinese society; their contributions to a cosmopolitan urban geography; and their changing symbolic and social significance for Shanghai as a global city. In so doing, it seeks to deal with the following questions: how have a generation of migrants made Shanghai into a cosmopolitan hometown, what role have they played in making Shanghai a global city, and how do foreign residents now fit into the nationalistic narrative of the China Dream? 

Addressing a gap in the market of critical expatriate studies through its focus on China, this book will be of interest to academics in the field of international migration, skilled migration, expatriates, urban studies, urban sociology, sexuality and gender studies, international education, and China studies.


"James Farrer’s acute portrait – and elegy – of colonialism and cosmopolitanism in Shanghai’s expat community is a model of how to mobilise personalised narratives and everyday detailing to key into profound shifts in international relations: in this case, the balance of power between an ascendant China and "the West" written into these residents’ lives and experiences. A vital contribution to the ethnography of global cities and transnational urbanism." Adrian Favell, Chair in Sociology and Social Theory, University of Leeds, UK

"Once a nation eager to join the world system, China is now a major power that reshapes the global order. James Farrer reveals vividly how this historic shift is experienced on the ground by tracing the changing positioning of Western expatriates in Shanghai since the 1990s. Weaving structural analysis into intimate ethnography, the book is an exemplar of multi-disciplinary studies on migration, cities, and global change." Biao Xiang, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK

"An essential read for scholars of migration intrigued by global cities, transnational urbanism, integration, and a changing China. Farrer draws on extended ethnographic immersion to produce a deep and convincing analysis of the multiple social fields – community, employment, education, sexuality – through which expatriate migrants navigate integration and belonging in Shanghai." Katie Walsh, Sussex Centre for Migration Research, University of Sussex, UK

"The New Shanghailanders is a carefully balanced, perceptive account of the social life of Western expatriates in Shanghai. By attending to the relational construction of transnational social, economic, cultural and sexual fields, Farrer shows how expat bubbles develop into Sinocentric cosmopolitan canopies. This is a welcome addition to the emerging scholarship on immigrant incorporation and adaptation in Asia." Brenda Yeoh, Raffles Professor of Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore and Research Leader of the Asian Migration Cluster at the Asia Research Institute, NUS

Table of Contents

1. Migrant Shanghai: Studying Expatriate Communities

2. Expatriate Narratives: Belonging and Not Belonging in the Global City

3. Expatriate Geographies: From Expat Bubbles to Urban Placemaking

4. Expatriate Society: Porous Boundaries and Fragile Linkages

5. Mobile Talents: Expatriates in Transnational Fields of Work

6. Sexual Mobilities: From Self-Development to Sexual Settlement

7. Raising Cosmopolitans: Expatriate Educational Strategies

8. Rethinking Expatriate Communities in the Era of the Chinese Dream

About the Author

James Farrer is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Graduate Program in Global Studies at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. His recent publications include Globalization and Asian Cuisines: Transnational Networks and Contact Zones (2015).

About the Series

Routledge Series on Asian Migration

Asia is now the most essential and dynamic region receiving and sending both long-term and short-term migrants, undertaking migration in all routes and in various forms. This series addresses various imminent trends of international migration in Asia, and the development of various Asian diaspora communities around the world. It brings together interests and efforts on migration studies focusing on the plights of Asian migrants within and beyond Asia, as well as all levels of governance and management of migration.

Books in the series broaden the discussions of the relationship between migration and globalization, transnationalism, development, governance, inter-cultural studies, and identity and diaspora. They address specific social and cultural dynamics – such as gender relations, population, family and marriage patterns, new class formation, and the transformation of cultural values – that have been brought by Asian migration. This series highlights Asia as a region with the most active migration movements, which should be one of the most essential areas bringing critical social changes within and across national boundaries.

The series welcomes submissions from prominent scholars in Asian Migration studies as well as emerging scholars with empirically rich and updated research.


Editorial Board

Steven J. Gold, Michigan State University, US

David Haines, George Mason University, US

Nana Oishi, University of Melbourne, Australia

Willem van Schendel, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Biao Xiang, University of Oxford, ,UK

Pei-Chia Lan, National Taiwan University, Taiwan

Brenda Yeoh, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General