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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Easy to Move, Hard to Settle Down: Taiwanese people in China

With Dr Ping Lin (National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan)

Series:  London Taiwan Seminar

Date: Thursday 7 February 2008, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Room 116, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

Chair: Mr Stuart Thompson (Taiwan Culture Research Programme)


Mirroring the flow of workers from labour-abundant to labour-scarce countries is a flow of investment from capital-rich to capital-poor countries. This movement of capital includes human capital, seen in the relocation of highly skilled workers (such as managers, technicians, and expatriate employees of transnational firms) moving into less developed countries. This presentation examines why highly-skilled workers move and how the adapt to their new host country.

The conventional view is that migrants are motivated for no other reason than for various forms of economic reward. However, this paper draws on new research to show that although monetary reward remains an important incentive, it is not the only reason for migration, and some migrants regard non-economic incentives, such as opportunities to fulfil an ideal life, as more important than tangible economic rewards. With relatively rich resources and some knowledge, some migrants are romantically optimistic about the various rewards that migration can offer, and are confident about their ability to overcome potential difficulties. Thus, they treat the host country as a place that is 'easy to move to'.

It is also often thought that migrants enter their new host country with a lower social-economic status and face initial barriers to adaptation.  However, the skilled migrants studied for this presentation enter their host country with a much higher status, and this provides both a high standard of living and a sense of superiority. This material ease and initial romantic optimism encourage such skilled migrants at first to explore and to engage with the host country in depth. However, the migrants eventually face certain problems which, although not serious, do cause annoyance, and this leads to a change of perspective. They give up exploring the host country and keep within their bubble with other skilled migrants. Eventually, they re-define the host country as a place 'hard to settle down in'.

The research presented here on the movement of professionals into developing countries shows the importance of entry status for migration motivation and adaptation. This factor is often overlooked in conventional migration studies, although it opens new perspectives for potential research on various types of migration in the future.

About the speaker

Dr Ping Lin has a PhD from Oxford and is an Assistant Professor at National Chung Cheng University. He is currently conducting research on the voluntary return of refugees and the adaptation of students studying overseas. Ping is also interested in issues concerning gender and Chinese society.