Why Migrate: Social Capital and Push-Pull Forces

Social Capital: History, Culture and Network

Network theory defines migrant networks as sets of interpersonal ties that connect migrants, former migrants and non-immigrants at points of origin and destination through ties of kinship, friendship and shared provenance. The existence of these ties is hypothesized to increase the likelihood of emigration by lowering the costs, raising the benefits and mitigating the risks of international movement (Massey et al. 1994).

In the case of the Philippines, networks rooted in history are the grounds on which contemporary Chinese migrants connect. With the mass influx of Chinese nationals to the Philippines, the migration process can become selfsustaining through the construction of increasingly dense social ties across space, thus further encouraging chain migration on the basis of family reunion and ties to relatives, friends and people from the same place.12 This represents an expansion and development of the network and constitutes the potential capital available to future non-migrants.13 As a result, though new Chinese migrants come from places such as Liaoning, Shandong, Jiangsu, Shanghai and Guangxi outside the traditional Qiaoxiang in Fujian and Guangdong, Fujianese continue to be the main source of the current migrant wave. For example, my survey in August 2015 showed that 97.2 % of the board members of OCCCI were from Fujian, mainly Quanzhou, Fujian.

Long-term, large-scale migration undoubtedly has a profound social- cultural impact on the Qiaoxiang in Fujian, and on the individuals immersed in it. Many respondents confessed that before moving to the Philippines, they knew nothing about it except for stories told in the local towns and villages. They are inspired by stories about earlier migrants who ventured abroad and finally succeeded. Some migrants’ stories, together with the respect they earned among local people and officials, and their donations to public welfare, encouraged a positive expectation of migration and transformed the dynamics for migration. Several respondents said it is better to be a boss than to be an employee, which local people view as somewhat humiliating. Their dream can come true in the Philippines, though only in the form of running a grocery store.

The migrant network formed in the Qiaoxiang in Fujian, together with its concomitant culture, is a form of social capital available to potential migrants and a self-sustaining mechanism encouraging subsequent migration. People living outside Qiaoxiang lack exposure to migrant culture and may find it harder to migrate, given that they lack the support of a migrant network.

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