Beyond Spatial Segregation: Neo-migrants and Their Social Networks in Chinese Cities

  • 1. Geography and Planning School of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China;
    2. Department of Geography and Resource Management, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong

Received date: 2010-11-09

  Revised date: 2011-04-08

  Online published: 2011-06-20

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40971095, No.41071106; Strategic Research theme in Contemporary China Studies of the University of Hong Kong; General Research Fund of the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong, No. CUHK 752407; DFG Priority Program


Against the context of the speed-up urbanization, neo-migrants in China, i.e. those born after the 1980s, emerge as a major actor shaping contemporary urban China. Unlike their predecessors who flooded into cities as Diaspora, neo-migrants become deeply grafted into cities. Being a major concern of Chinese society, such neo-migrants and their social relations have never been systematically explored. Based on a survey of eight migrant villages in Guangzhou, the largest capital of southern China, this study sheds light upon the social network and related issues for neo-migrants. In particular, it tries to examine the impacts of the enclave or accumulation space upon the social networks of migrants. Through a series of quantitative studies, it is found that the social networks of neo-migrants is becoming diversified, modernized and varied across the urban space. In contrast to the old generation migrants, more connections can be found between the neo-migrants and various social strata, especially those beyond the enclaves. As such, it is argued that the social network of neo-migrants is moving beyond the boundary of migrant enclaves or villages, so that a new trend of social integration between migrants and the local society can be found. Moreover, it is argued that new migrant enclave today is by no means as insulated or segregated as in history, as migrant enclaves is gradually reconstructed when neo-migrants establish new types of social ties beyond the spatial boundaries. Nevertheless, sociospatial segregation between migrants and local residents still can be found, and the significance of traditional social networks for migrants, i.e., kinship or laoxiang relations, is still evident, though the extent of which has been largely alleviated. In addition, migration history, social economic status and social cultural characteristics also have significant impacts upon the restructuring of migrant social networks. As such, it is concluded that that the trend of moving beyond the spatial segregation in terms of neo-migrants' social networks will be a progressive, piecemeal and time-lasting process.

Cite this article

LI Zhigang, LIU Ye . Beyond Spatial Segregation: Neo-migrants and Their Social Networks in Chinese Cities[J]. Acta Geographica Sinica, 2011 , 66(6) : 785 -795 . DOI: 10.11821/xb201106007


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