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Middle class one-child migrants: between transnational aspirations in the UK and family responsibility in China

Tu, Mengwei (2016) Middle class one-child migrants: between transnational aspirations in the UK and family responsibility in China. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:57410)

Language: English
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The rapid economic development in China since 1978 and the one-child policy enacted in 1979 produced a large number of middle class families with only one child. Initially inspired by the Western means to affluence, these one-child migrants came to the UK (mostly) as international students and remained after their study to take up opportunities to gain work in the professions. As the only child they were faced with the dilemma of seeking greater mobility in the host country, and looking after their ageing parents in China. This research seeks to understand the factors behind their decision to migrate or to settle, and how the only-child migrants in the UK negotiate filial obligations in relation to their parents in China. The transnational one-child family provides a unique case for investigating how families function and change under extreme conditions; as well as how traditional family values and practices shift in the 21st Century within the context of rapid modernisation.

The findings of the research are based on interviews with 27 one-child migrants, 6 migrants with siblings and 7 parents of the one-child participants. The migrant participants are from different regions of China and were dispersed in the UK. The majority of the sample has an urban middle class background. By including parents and children from the same family, which is rarely done in transnational family research, this study is able to analyse the separated household members from both sides. The detailed accounts of the migrants' lived experience reveal a multi-level decision-making process over the life course of these families, a predominately parent-to-child intergenerational material transfer, as well as a reconfigured reciprocity between one-child migrants and their parents.

Families represent the most intimate form of a transnational social field. One-child transnational families in this study have shown intense circulation of material resources, emotion and care forged by the biological bond and family contract; these families played a crucial "bridging" role that connects the social spaces between China and the UK. As a result individual migrants are actively involved in relationships in multi-layered spaces, and simultaneously influenced by these relationships. International education and the globalised late-capital world gave rise to a demographic of Western-educated Chinese migrants who are relatively mobile, while some aspects of their lives are still geographically bound. By introducing the time factor into the family-migration nexus the thesis shows that migrants' establishment in the host country and their transnational ties are neither incompatible, nor are they static; their relationship evolves with the life cycle of the individuals, and the changing society in both the host country and China.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Song, Miri
Thesis advisor: Zhang, Joy
Uncontrolled keywords: UK migration, one-child policy, Chinese middle class, transnational family, international students, migration policy, talent mobility, high skill migrants
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2016 11:00 UTC
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2022 20:08 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Tu, Mengwei.

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