Handbook of Chinese Migration
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Handbook of Chinese Migration

Identity and Wellbeing

Edited by Iredale R. Robyn and Guo Fei

The recent unprecedented scale of Chinese migration has had far-reaching consequences. Within China, many villages have been drained of their young and most able workers, cities have been swamped by the ‘floating population’, and many rural migrants have been unable to integrate into urban society. Internationally, the Chinese have become increasingly more mobile. This Handbook provides a unique collection of new and original research on internal and international Chinese migration and its effects on the sense of belonging of migrants.
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Chapter 8: Boundaries, exclusion and identity construction: experiences of rural–urban migrants in China

Yeqing Huang and Fei Guo


The concept of social exclusion has been widely applied to explain the marginalization of rural–urban migrants in contemporary China, yet aspects of migrants’ own perceptions of their identity have received little attention. This chapter examines some of the underlying mechanisms of social exclusion in contemporary Chinese urban society by deconstructing perceived boundaries between rural–urban migrants and local urbanites. Qualitative analysis of data collected from a rural village in central China suggest that migrants’ identities are shaped and reshaped by their hukou and employment status, home ownership and social network. These factors are interwoven, leading to more than one identity in migrants’ narrative discourses. Most survey respondents, when asked to choose either a rural or an urban identity, were ambivalent, indicating apparently blurry identity boundaries. The findings highlight an intertwining effect of institutional and market forces in the process of rural–urban migrants’ identity formation and transformation in urban China.

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