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Not a lonely journey: social embeddedness and the return migration of highly skilled Chinese engineers from the United States

Qin, Fei (2011) Not a lonely journey: social embeddedness and the return migration of highly skilled Chinese engineers from the United States. In: Carré, Françoise and Weller, Christian, (eds.) Proceedings of the 63rd Annual Meeting. Labor & Employment Relations Association series. Labor & Employment Relations Association, Champaign, IL, USA, pp. 74-87. ISBN 9780913447024

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This paper examines how social processes affect the decisions of Chinese engineers in the United States to return to China and their experience as returnees. The analysis is based on three pieces of data: quantitative data from a survey of a group of Chinese engineers in Boston regarding their plans to return, qualitative data from in-depth interviews with returnees in China and migrants who are still in the United States, and qualitative data from interviews with various types of institutional actors involved in the return migration processes. The study finds that return migration is often associated with entrepreneurship. This pattern reflects migrants' perception of the opportunity structure in China. A mixture of opportunities and constraints that exist in China often leads engineers to return for technology entrepreneurship. Moreover, in contrast to the conventional wisdom that often views the migration of highly skilled workers as an individualized process, this study finds that return migration is not a lonely journey. It is very often a group process instead of an individual process. Returnees/potential returnees draw heavily upon the ties with other migrants that have been established during the migration process. The decision to return is often not made by isolated individuals, but made collectively by the group of people who go back to China as a team. In addition to interpersonal ties, various types of voluntary migrant associations serve as important intermediaries between migrants' communities and gatekeepers in China. The results of this study shed new light on the enabling mechanisms of circular migration.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2011 Labor & Employment Relations Association
Divisions: Management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2012 09:09
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 09:43

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