In this webinar, Dr Aranya Siriphon sheds light on the new Chinese migrants known as the Xin yimin, who have been moving to Thailand since the 2000s, and the consequent issue of local embeddedness.
REGIONAL SOCAL AND CULTURAL STUDIES PROGRAMME WEBINAR
15 February 2022, Tuesday — The regional social and cultural studies programme organised a webinar on “The Quest for Local Embeddedness: Recent Chinese Migrants in Thailand” on Tuesday, delivered by Dr Aranya Siriphon, Visiting Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. Dr Siriphon is also Associate Professor at Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, Thailand. Dr Siwage Dharma Negara, co-coordinator of the Indonesia Studies Programme at ISEAS moderated this session.
At the beginning of the webinar, Dr Siriphon differentiated between new urban and skilled migrants who have been leaving China since the reform era in the 1980s — for economic reasons and often transient in the nature of their migration — with the old wave of Chinese migrants who settled in Thailand for survival, before the pre-World War ll period. Dr Siriphon then argues that new Chinese migrants tended to have trouble assimilating with the local Thais due to their transient nature, compared to the older migrants who have settled and identify themselves as Thai nationals.
Following this, Dr Siriphon suggested classifying the nature of these transient new migrants into four groups based on their reasons for migration or their activities in Thailand. The first group is those who migrate for business opportunities, made up of Chinese Investors, individual entrepreneurs, staff and professional workers. The second group consists of those who migrate for education and their accompanying guardians. The third group comprises leisure and lifestyle migrants who eventually migrate to Thailand after being enchanted by its lifestyle and culture. Last, there are those who mix education and leisure with business migration by being purchasing agents and engaging in e-commerce businesses, selling Thai products and international brands to Chinese customers.
Regarding the integration of these groups, Dr Siriphon pointed out that existing two-sided stereotypes, the lack of the need to adopt Thai citizenship, and the language barrier result in new Chinese migrants being distanced from Thai locals in general. Studying a variety of social groups that were self-organised by new Chinese migrants, seeking to provide material and emotional support to one another through Chinese language and culture-based activities in Chiang Mai, Dr Siriphon argued that a ‘parallel community’ has formed. Some examples she listed included guardian-parent support groups formed online to support one another as Chinese parents living in a new environment, and religion-based groups formed to provide newcomers with a sense of home and belonging.
The webinar concluded with a robust Question and Answer session where the audience wrote in questions about the curriculum of international education in Thai private universities, interactions between ethnic Chinese in Thailand and the new Chinese migrants, the role of the government in forging a sense of shared identity, possible economic benefits brought in by new migrants for Thai locals and attitudes of the Chinese state. The webinar attracted 62 participants from Singapore and abroad.