“Big Fish in a Small Pond”: Chinese Migrant Shopkeepers in South Africa
Article first published online: 25 MAR 2014
© 2014 by the Center for Migration Studies of New York. All rights reserved.
International Migration Review
Volume 48, Issue 1, pages 181–215, Spring 2014
How to Cite
Lin, E. (2014), “Big Fish in a Small Pond”: Chinese Migrant Shopkeepers in South Africa. International Migration Review, 48: 181–215. doi: 10.1111/imre.12074
- Issue published online: 25 MAR 2014
- Article first published online: 25 MAR 2014
The steady growth of Chinese migrants to South Africa in the past decade provides an opportunity to use Sen's (2001, Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press) capabilities approach in the field of immigration. This theoretical framing reveals that the Chinese employ, what I call, a small pond migration strategy – utilizing mobility to maximize their social, economic, and human capital. I argue that the Chinese move to South Africa because of a desire to venture out of China and pursue freedoms associated with being one's own boss. Once in South Africa, they choose to stay because of comfortable weather and a slower pace of life, despite losing freedoms associated with high crime in Johannesburg. The findings suggest alternative ways of understanding factors of migration as well as a model that explains migration from more developed countries to less developed ones.