chapter  8
19 Pages

Diverse encounters

European migrants’ contact zones in China
WithAldina Camenisch, Brigitte Suter

With China’s global economic and political ascendance, a growing and diversifying group of foreigners make Chinese cities their home. Employing the notion of contact zones and critically contesting simplified notions of privileged and segregated ‘expats’, this chapter explores how varying structural and individual conditions foreground the ways in which European migrants experience their presence in China and forge relationship with Chinese individuals. We investigate how interviewees’ everyday life in China primarily unfolds through their workplace, their housing arrangements and neighbourhoods, and the educational institutions where their children are schooled, and we capture and discuss the diverse social relations forged therein. These range from hierarchically uneven to equal yet multi-layered social relationships with Chinese nationals, and they result in varying experiences of Chinese environments. As such, our findings challenge common postcolonial assumptions on power relations between white foreigners and their local contacts and draw attention to the increasing complexity of such encounters.