Cultural identity and communication among the Chinese diaspora in Australia in the 1990s : a Canberra case study

  • Jun Xiao

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    As a contribution to understanding the Chinese immigrants and their community, this study seeks to explore the factors influencing the formation and development of cultural identity among members of the Chinese diaspora in Australia. These include Chinese community life, family and professional networks, media use and its influences, and the changes that have taken place over the past ten years. Chinese communities in Australia are not homogeneous. Although they may all call themselves Chinese, they differ among themselves according to dialect, subdialect, clan and family, all of which are linked to their place of ancestral origin in China, as well as by country of birth outside of China. The degree to which these differences are considered important varies from individual to individual, but a community, whether it is constituted for social or business purposes, always comprises individuals who share one or more of these secondary characteristics in addition to their collective cultural characteristics. The study focuses on Canberra as a case study. First, it examines the similarities and differences within the Chinese diaspora coming from different geographical origins. It uses interviews and narrative analysis to examine the nature of Chinese immigrants and to assess their social, political and cultural context, with the aim to challenge the monolithic view that only one kind of Chinese community exists. It investigates how cultural background and other factors affect the formation and development of people's identity. In addition, as a point of secondary comparison, this study also analyses the differences between the Chinese diaspora in Canberra and Sydney. The aim here is to assess how the different locations and different characteristics of these cities communication networks affect migrants' adaptation to Australian society. Special attention will be given to differences between Dalu ren (the mainland Chinese),who came to Australia after the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989,and the other diasporic Chinese groups in Australia, which include Taiwan ren (Taiwanese),Xianggangren' (Honkongese),Malaixiya hua ren (Malaysian Chinese),and Xinjiapo hua ren (Singaporean Chinese). Since mainland China has had a different political system and the Communist Party replaced much Chinese tradition, people from the mainland have kept the least Chinese cultural traditions. Chinese from other regions try to keep the Chinese tradition as it was. However, the culture in mainland China has already changed. Therefore, the understanding of the Chinese tradition and culture among the Chinese from different regions varies greatly. This thesis explores the changing understanding within the members of the diasporic community of cultural identity. It attempts to show the strong influence of the notion of an original culture on the Chinese diaspora and how these ideas influence the way that diasporic Chinese community members interact within Australian society. It will investigate the changing characteristics, both social and individual, of mainlanders and other groups of Chinese immigrants in the 1990s,in the context of their professional, social and family networks. It will examine areas such as media use, languages and involvement with community development activities, and whether there are significant differences in their acculturation according to their different gender and places of origins. 1 Although Hong Kong has become part of China since 1997,there have, however, been different political and social systems in Hong Kong and the mainland, so this study researches Hong Kong in a separate category for the purpose of exploring differences.
    Date of Award2001
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGlen Lewis (Supervisor)

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