Visualizing Chinese Immigration

“Visualizing Chinese Immigration” is a digital project based on Shiqi Xie’s Master thesis “Reimagining Model Minority: Post-1965 Chinese Immigration in the United States.” This project seeks to raise awareness of the history of Chinese immigration. By addressing several questions throughout the research, this project elaborates on the idea of Model minority and complex relationships between immigrants and the issues they confront. Behind immigration records, What are the common discourses on the Chinese American? To what degree, are Chinese immigrants assimilated into American life? To what extent do Chinese immigrants agree with the model minority concept? Bear these questions in mind. Perhaps you will find the answers after experiencing this website.


Historical Overview

Historically, Chinese immigrants were the earliest Asian immigrants to the U.S. 

By as early as the 1820s, official immigration documents have recorded the arrival of immigrants from China.The first significant presence of Chinese in the U.S. appeared during the California Gold Rush. Only a few Chinese were able to make fortunes out of the Gold Rush. Most Chinese ended up entering other sectors of economy, such as railroad construction, farming and fishing. Chinese workers were praised for their efficiency and used by owners of factories to end union strike aroused by white employees.The notion that the Chinese worked hard without complaint put Chinese on the opposite side of the unions, which turned Chinese as a threat to the white labors. Under the riot of anti-Chinese sentiment, the Chinese Exclusion Act was approved on May 6, 1882, which banned the entry of Chinese laborers for ten years. 





Golden Rush

The first significant presence of Chinese in the U.S. appeared during the California Gold Rush. Following the discovery of gold by James Marshall on the South Fork of the American River, thousands of Chinese men who were longed for wealth and prosperity stepped their feet on the land. Between 1848 to 1951, Chinese started to arrive in San Francisco, then headed for Sutter’s Mill. By the end of the 1850s, more than 30,000 Chinese came to America.

An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to the Chinese, May 6, 1882; Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789-1996; General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives. click here


Chinese Exclusion Act

The Chinese Exclusion Act was approved on May 6, 1882, which banned the entry of Chinese laborers and forbade the naturalization of Chinese persons. It had Chinese Exclusion Act was approved on May 6, 1882, which banned the entry of Chinese laborers for ten years except for diplomats, students, teachers, merchants and visitors. The Act also forbade the naturalization of Chinese persons.


The 1965 Immigration reform has produced a heterogenous Chinese immigrant population made up of people with diverse characteristics.

The 1965 Immigration Reform has accounted for most of the growth of Chinese population in the U.S. Ever since the 1965 immigration reform, between 1965 and 2016, more than 2.7 million Chinese immigrants from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau were admitted to the U.S., almost 7 times the total Chinese immigrants admitted to the U.S. between 1850 and 1959.

The contemporary Chinese community in the U.S. is still considered as a predominantly immigrant society as 70 % of the Chinese population in the U.S. are foreign born nowadays. 80% of the Chinese population in the U.S. speak languages other than English at home. In comparison, 13.7% of the total population are foreign-born, while 8.6% of the white population are foreign born.


Chinese Immigration in the U.S. SINCE 1965

The data visualization on the right reflects the rapid flow of Chinese immigrants into America since the 1965 immigration reform. These number also reflects changes in the diplomatic relations between China and the U.S, such as the normalizations of U.S.-China relations in 1978, which resulted in an unceasing flow of Chinese immigrants from the Mainland China and a separate immigrant quota for Taiwan since 1981.


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