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date: 06 December 2022

Chinese Diaspora and Social Media: Negotiating Transnational Spacelocked

Chinese Diaspora and Social Media: Negotiating Transnational Spacelocked

  • Wanning SunWanning SunPublic Communication Program, University of Technology Sydney

Summary

The period since about the late 1980s has witnessed the phenomenal ascent of the People’s Republic of China as a political, economic, and military power on the global stage. China’s rise has engendered an earnest, if perhaps not well-executed, agenda to promote a more attractive image of the country. In this period China has also experienced a rapid escalation in outbound migration to various parts of the world, with a small number of countries in the global West emerging as the preferred destinations for Chinese migrants, and, in some cases, China becoming their biggest source of new migrants. In the United States, China replaced Mexico as the top sending country in 2018. In Canada, mainland China has taken over from Hong Kong and Taiwan as the largest source of Chinese immigration, while in Australia, China now has the second-largest migrant population behind the United Kingdom, and has only recently slipped into second position behind India as the nation’s leading source of new immigrants. These developments have made China’s diaspora the biggest in the world. In the eyes and minds of the Chinese government, Chinese migrants are important potential assets in its efforts to push its global soft power agenda.

The period of accelerated outbound migration from China coincided with the emergence of first the internet, and then digital media—in particular, the most popular Chinese social media platform, WeChat (Weixin in Chinese). Against the backdrop of these developments at the macro level, the topic of social media and the Chinese diaspora becomes a question of considerable significance. Some analysts argue that the dramatically enlarged mainland Chinese diaspora has effectively become an instrument of China’s soft power agenda, while others point out the positive role that members of this group play in their host communities. In particular, they highlight the potential of Chinese-language social media—and in particular WeChat, which is widely used by Chinese people both within and outside China—to have a beneficial impact on Chinese immigrants’ prospects for social integration in the countries where they now reside. The pursuit of these questions entails a brief foray into a number of research areas, including the Chinese diaspora, the history and transformation of Chinese-language diasporic media, the infrastructural and regulatory framework of WeChat, and public diplomacy via diaspora. Addressing these questions also has the benefit of broadening, and possibly enriching, the concepts of digital diaspora, on the one hand, and digital citizenship, on the other.

Subjects

  • International/Global Communication

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