U.S.-Born Chinese Flock Back to China

Many foreign-born Chinese are now flocking to China, eager to get a piece of the economic pie.

Chinese individuals born in the United States and elsewhere are flocking back to China in an attempt to profit from the growing Chinese economy. While many of their parents fled China half a century ago in search of a better life, there appears to be a reverse trend happening with the next generation.

The transition back to China can create an identity-crisis for those who grew up Westernized. Ed Hsu, a 37-year-old, American-born Chinese who own two Shanghai branches of Singaporean chain Awfully Chocolate first franchised in 2007. He said, “My parents went to Taiwan during the war but have these romantic memories of China, so they’re confused, which trickled down to me. You come to China, and you’re not really Chinese anymore. You go to Taiwan, but they don’t consider you Chinese. Then you go to the States, and you’re a citizen, but you’re not really American.”

Many like Hsu agree that for foreign-born Chinese, the lines that define ethnicity are significantly more blurred in China. Kelley Lee grew up in Cerritos, California and always thought of herself as “Chinese first and American second.” But when Lee moved to Shanghai in 2004, she felt more American than Chinese. “When I saw ‘the Chinese,’ I have a separate identity from them, though nor can I relate 100% to being a white-bread American.”

Hsu has lived in Australia, Taiwan, Japan and the U.S. before moving to Shanghai and notes, “I’m Chinese-American, but I’m not a mainlander. I respect the energy here, though. This is a place where you can make something of yourself regardless of where you came from. It’s the non-American American dream.”

Both Hsu and Lee are in the restaurant business and their toughest critics are their parents, who see culinary work as blue-collar and a waste of their sacrifices. Hsu says his sister went into investment banking and is now a hair colorist. “She followed her dreams,” he says. “My mom threw a fit: ‘I can’t believe we worked so hard to put you through school, and now my daughter cuts hair and my son bakes cake.’”  Hsu parents eventually came around – accepting the change in generations with respect to identity and geography.

Source: Wall Street Journal