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GUANGZHOU EXPRESS: Alternative approaches to undocumented status

PB Template
  1. Delineating and analyzing China’s approach to undocumented or informal status and mobility.
  2. Unpacking what undocumented status means in China’s context using the individual accounts of foreign migrants, specifically Africans.
  1. What is China’s approach to undocumented status and internal mobility and what is the context shaping this approach?
  2. What are the legal, policy and political developments that reflect China’s approach?
  3. What do individual accounts of migrants show about what undocumented status is like in China?

China’s unique internal dynamics are shaped by interior migration regulation, fast-paced economic transformations, and population management dilemmas. Coupled with the drive for political and cultural homogeneity, these challenges have impacted Chinese people and how mobile they can be within the borders of the state. Consequently, as China has become a migration destination for different categories of migrants, the space that foreign migrants can inhabit is increasingly becoming an issue of debate. Since China’s economy “opened up” in the 1980s, different categories of foreign migrants have been drawn to China. As a result, China’s immigration law and policy approach has been evolving to meet the new challenges of migration at the national level and to address the internal, local-level realities.

With these factors in view, this study intends to unpack China’s distinctive and evolving approach to undocumented status looking at three levels of analysis: immigration law and policy developments, as well as the context shaping these developments, individual accounts of foreign migrants of how they experience their status in China in their everyday lives, and local-level understandings and perspectives on migrant status. Looking at these three levels, this project examines China’s approach towards migrant status, the impact on the lived experiences of foreign migrants, and its significance. The research findings will also be connected to the larger discussions on undocumented migrant status and alternative approaches to migration in the Global South.

Interviews of Africans in China (Guangzhou).

Secondary research on law and policy literature pertaining to migration status.

Survey of Chinese government statements in media and other platforms that give evidence of China’s approach to undocumented status.

The second part of fieldwork, which included interviews in Guangzhou at three levels: in the migrant community, Chinese locals, local organizations, and international organizations, has now been concluded. A follow-up to the March webinar is taking place in November 2021.

Spring 2022

Results from this research will be available in late 2021.

We have already organized a webinar in March 2021: and plan to hold another workshop (online or in person) in fall-winter 2021 on the impact of the pandemic on Sino-African migration exchanges.

CERC Migration

China, Africa, Sino-African relations, Sino-African migrations, Global South, alternative approaches to migration, undocumented status, migrant status, mobility, Asia