Research Project

The reconfiguration of whiteness in China: Privileges, precariousness, and racialized performances

With the rise of China’s economy, more and more westerners are moving to China for business and job opportunities. One consequence of this reverse migration is the transformation of whiteness from a majority identity in western countries to a minority identity in China. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being white in China’s thriving market economy and consumer culture? How is whiteness racialized in relation to blackness and other immigrant identities in various social domains and in different regions in China? How are multiple versions of whiteness negotiated and performed through daily life interactions between white migrants and Chinese in various social and personal settings?

ChinaWhite, with its full project title “The reconfiguration of whiteness in China: Privileges, precariousness, and racialized performances,” is a five-year research project (2019-2024) funded by a European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant. The project is hosted by the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR) at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Multi-sited and multi-scalar ethnographic research will be conducted on daily life encounters between various groups of white migrants and Chinese in five domains: (1) state policy regarding international migrants in China; (2) the ESL industry (teaching English as a second language); (3) the media, fashion, and entertainment industries; (4) transnational business and entrepreneurship; and (5) interracial romance. This project contributes to a new line of research on white racial formation in East Asia by creatively integrating theories in whiteness studies and migration studies. It also expands the geographical scope of research on white expatriates from global cities in coastal areas to second-tier cities in inland China.