Multilingualism, Urbanisation and Migration: Signs of nativism in policies of the Chinese state

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation at conference/workshop/seminar


There exist plans for 60% of the Chinese population to be resident in urban spaces and for 80% of all Chinese nationals to speak Mandarin by the year 2020. This paper examines policies of the post-1949 Chinese state for signs of nativism, the position according to which desirable qualities are inalienable from the place of origin. When considered together with the massive urbanisation enterprise definitive of contemporary Chinese society, nativism manifests officially itself in ways including policies designed from the 1990s onwards to discourage long-distance migration. The promotion of decreased migration distances in policies is also investigated by being read synoptically with policies in the apparently unrelated but intimately connected domain of language planning, and with migrant accounts of their responses to policy. From such readings emerge a nativist narrative concerning the Chinese nation, how the Chinese state is to be governed, and where Chinese people are to live. When a top migration destination such as Suzhou Municipality is thus seen in a multilingual light, the variants of nativism, whether espoused by officials or migrants, become more clearly visible than otherwise would be the case. Rather than categorically precluding long migration distances, however, more often than not the strains of nativism identified in this study display various kinds of ambivalence. In view of this ambivalence over the native place, the paper re-considers the contention that shorter internal migration distances are exclusively associated with better ideational, political and social outcomes in China.
Event titleThe 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars
Event typeConference
LocationLeidenShow on map