SCIENTIA GEOGRAPHICA SINICA ›› 2022, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (9): 1513-1521.doi: 10.13249/j.cnki.sgs.2022.09.001

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The Formation Mechanisms of Immigrant Enclaves in China: Comparative Study of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou

Zhou Wenting1(), Liu Yungang2,3()   

  1. 1. School of Management, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, Guangdong, China
    2. School of Geography & the Center of Administrative Division and Spatial Governance, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, Guangdong, China
    3. Beidou Research Institute, South China Normal University, Foshan 528225, Guangdong, China
  • Received:2021-12-20 Revised:2022-03-11 Accepted:2022-07-04 Online:2022-09-30 Published:2022-09-20
  • Contact: Liu Yungang;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41901190);National Natural Science Foundation of China(42071187);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41971183);Ministry of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences Project(18YJCZH271)


Against the deepening of China’s reform and opening up and high-speed economic growth, the number of transmigrants in China has soared over the last decade. Though most of the transmigrants tend to sojourn for less than five years in major metropolises such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, their emergence gradually contributes to the reconstruction of urban social space in China. Now, due to transmigrants ’ preference for residing close to their compatriots, scattered immigrant enclaves in major metropolises are becoming characterized by different nationalities or nations. This topic has attracted widespread attention from scholars and the public. As such, this study sheds light on three typical immigrant enclaves as case study regions, including the South Korean enclave in Wangjing, Beijing, the Japanese enclave in Gubei, Shanghai and the African enclave in Xiaobei, Guangzhou, in order to discuss the following questions. 1) How and why have different ethnic groups chosen their residence city? 2) How do ethnic groups interact with residence cities, and what are the formation mechanism and characteristics of three immigrant enclaves? Based on the comparative study of the three immigrant enclaves in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, we found that: Firstly, many of the South Korean Transmigrants have expatriated to Beijing are enterprise-oriented, trade-oriented and education-oriented, the Japanese Transmigrants in Shanghai are enterprise-oriented, and the African Transmigrants in Guangzhou are trade-oriented. Secondly, the immigrant enclaves in three cities have been established under similar institutional backgrounds, such as global economic restructuring, bilateral relationship, and immigrant policy of China, which led to a policy-led or economy-led character of immigrant enclaves. Despite all this, due to distinct urban hard and soft environment, and ethnicity factors, the formation mechanisms of immigrant enclaves vary from city to city, from ethnic group to ethnic group. As a result, there are three immigrant enclave models: The Japanese enclave in Gubei is the special zone model, the South Korean enclave in Wangjing is the coupled modes, and the African enclave in Xiaobei is the ethnic model. Besides, the study also points out that immigrant enclaves in China are different from their counterparts in the west, where they are usually treated as a serious social problem brought by social deprivation and spatial differentiation. Against the contexts of China ’s unique situation and “sojourned” transmigrants, the immigrant enclaves in China are the results of transmigrants ’ efforts on adapting to China ’s immigrant policies, urban policies, and city’s public services. Now, the cities in China have entered a new stage, featured by both capital internationalization and immigrant internationalization in a completely distinct way. Therefore, we should put emphasis on the immigrant enclave governance and service, so as to build an exemplary role in the country and promote the in-depth opening and high-quality development in China.

Key words: immigrant enclave, South Korean Transmigrants, Japanese Transmigrants, African Transmigrants, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou

CLC Number: 

  • K901.2