Chinese Nationality Laws and Reconceptualizing Asian-American Identity

Here’s an abstract of a forthcoming article in the UCLA Asian Pacific American Law Journal by Norman P. Ho of the Peking University School of Transnational Law.

Existing Asian-American Jurisprudence (AAJ) scholarship has largely focused its attention on American law’s impact on the experience of Asian-Americans in the United States, particularly with respect to the themes of racialization and identity. This Article adopts a transnational and comparative approach, focusing on how Asian-Americans – specifically, the identity of Chinese-Americans – are racialized and affected by perceptions and the nationality laws in their ancestral home countries, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC, or unofficially, Taiwan). Examining Chinese-Americans’ social (namely, perceptions and expectations from PRC and ROC society) and legal treatment (via nationality law) in these countries arguably allows us to reconceptualize Chinese-American identity as not simply as a narrative of Americanization, but also one of Sinification. Coupled with perceptions of “foreignness,” “disloyalty,” and “inassimilability” in the United States, a twilight zone of Chinese-American identity then occurs, where Chinese-Americans are in a tug-of-war of sorts between what we might describe as “dueling vectors” of their American identity and the identity of their home countries. They may not feel fully accepted as “Americans,” but at the same time they may feel “too accepted” as “Chinese” by the PRC or ROC. This Article uses specific case studies, namely the experiences of Chinese-American ESL teachers working and living in the PRC and ROC, former U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, and NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin, to highlight the tensions between Americanization and Sinification of Chinese-American identity both by PRC and ROC society and also PRC and ROC nationality law.

Read the full article here on SSRN.

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