Chinese immigration law and policy: a case of ‘change your direction, or end up where you are heading’?

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Zhu, G & Price, R 2013, 'Chinese immigration law and policy: a case of ‘change your direction, or end up where you are heading’?', Columbia Journal of Asian Law, vol. 26, pp. 1-28.


Lao Tzu’s famous call for reform in the title of this paper is a useful metaphor for the need to address the outdated settings which constitute much of China’s policy toward resident foreigners. This is because unless there is improvement in the laws then there will be more social and economic exclusion of migrant populations in a time when cohesion is politically paramount. Formalizing the position of resident foreigners presents a unique economic opportunity for China to harness such people with an assimilationist policy which increases the nation’s revenue base and enlarges the polity’s conception of what it is to be Chinese. By translating from Chinese into English the views of a range of academics, policy makers and local officials this article makes available to a Western audience the Middle Kingdom’s increasingly contentious discourse on immigration. A high-level government review of the 1985 Law of the PRC on the Control of Entry and Exit of Aliens is currently underway it is widely accepted that Chinese immigration law is at a crossroads. This article surveys the law to establish what is wrong with it and how it needs to change. It does so with special reference to the Africans of Guangzhou.

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