Chinese medical research professionals utilize their intellectual cultural capital and flexible citizenship for their lives in two localities: the western suburban metropolitan Philadelphia area and Shanghai, China. In addition, this dissertation discusses modern Chinese culture through Chinese returnees' eyes in Shanghai. This research will discuss migration of skilled intellectuals under globalization and the change in these Chinese professionals' transnational identities in different localities. Moreover, this research presents the impact brought by neoliberal ideology in the United States and by policies of privatization in modern Chinese society to these transnational professionals as part of the global process of migrating professionals.
This research contains two parts. The first part of this research will study Chinese medical research professionals' lives in the western suburban metropolitan Philadelphia area—the Philadelphia Mainline, West Chester, and Exton. The second part of my research studies these Chinese medical research professionals' return experience when they relocate back to Shanghai, China.
Most of these Chinese professionals came to the US from China (the People's Republic of China), Hong Kong, and Taiwan (the Republic of China) for their graduate degrees. After graduation in the 1980s and 1990s, they stayed for work in pharmaceutical companies in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Despite having US citizenship or permanent residency, these Chinese professionals never identify themselves as "Americans". Their lives in the historically European-American cultural dominant western Philadelphia suburbs are challenged socially and culturally when they try to carry out their "American dream". Not being able to engage in activities in American society and often feeling disempowered, these Chinese professionals maintain their social connections with their "hometowns" in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in many cultural ways. At the same time, these Chinese medical professionals are involved in cultural activities such as Saturday Chinese Schools and Chinese Christian churches. Saturday Chinese Schools and Chinese Churches provide pivotal social network milieu for these Chinese professionals to construct their safety network in living in the western suburban Philadelphia area. Unlike Chinese immigrants in California and New York City where the Chinese population is huge, these Chinese professionals do not distinguish themselves by their countries of origin since they all consider themselves as a pan-Chinese minority in this Philadelphia metropolitan area. They do, however, distinguish themselves from Chinese immigrants in Philadelphia's Chinatown owing to social and economic differences, though a shared sentiment of pan-ethnicity emerges when they experience racial discrimination. These Chinese professionals conceive of neoliberal ideology as a natural fact of life in the US which they appreciate. They consider the social milieu of China as making it harsher for them to be prosperous than in the US since they do not need to have existing guanxi networks based on their families and friends in the US context. Intergenerationally, these Chinese professionals try to pass down their cultural heritage. Their children—the second generation Chinese immigrants—identify themselves mostly as Chinese Americans with an imagined identity that connects them with their parents' respective homelands. Gender plays a vital role for these second generation Chinese immigrants with respect to the issue of becoming well-adjusted in attending to American high schools.
The second part of my research discusses these Chinese medical research professionals' return experience to China, particularly to the fast-paced, rapidly developing context of Shanghai. Starting from the year 2007, the economic recession has gradually been taking over the United States. At the same time, the booming Chinese market and economy are becoming the new focus of American companies. American pharmaceutical companies in the Philadelphia area recognize that these Chinese medical research professionals' transnational background enables them to broaden the company's economic development in China; therefore, they repatriate some Chinese medical professionals to China at management levels. Simultaneously, other Chinese professionals are returning to China to start their own small businesses because they were laid off in the United States.
Having come to the US to pursue their American dreams, the unexpected return challenges Chinese professionals in every aspect of life. First, the process of relocation of the whole family can take years and lead to separation of the family. The separation leads to a shift in gender roles. Usually the mother takes charge of the whole family while the father moves to China for work. Some families are broken because some family members opt to stay in the US, which leads to adoption of children, love affairs, and divorces. China has developed dramatically economically and culturally since these Chinese professionals left in the 1990's; therefore, these Chinese professionals, who become returnees after returning to China, realize that they have difficulties adjusting themselves to life in Shanghai. Feeling like outsiders again, they have developed strategies to counter these difficulties. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)