chapter  3
15 Pages

Chinese cities and mobile livelihoods: migration, risk and social networks

ByHEATHER XIAOQUAN ZHANG

History is in part personal history. The two are inseparable – however tiny the individual is in the shape of things.

Peter Townsend ( 2000 : 5)

This chapter tells a story of a migratory family of the Hui Muslim national minority from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in north-western China, who ran a Lanzhoustyle beef noodle restaurant in the northern coastal city of Tianjin in the late 2000s. It traces the geographical and social mobility of the family at different points of the life course involving three and in particular the older two (grandparent and parent) generations’ unremitting efforts to sustain and secure livelihoods through initiating, engaging in and developing a range of entrepreneurial endeavours within the north-western region and later beyond it. 1 It applies a risk concept in ‘restorying’, 2 examining and interpreting the meanings of the experiences of the migratory family as narrated and understood by its members, and aims to explore themes such as uncertainties, risks and contingencies in the context of China’s transition, 3 as well as relationships between livelihoods, social networks, agency and public policy interventions.