Emigration Dynamism and Social Transformation in Northeast China

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This ethnographic study examined how the dynamics of labour emigration from northeast China are produced and changed through the interplay between the state, the labour market, and individuals/households. It looked at three inter-related issues: 1) the role of migration agents, who have been widely recognised as critical facilitators of migration flows but whose actions had been subject to very limited theoretical conceptualisation; 2) the exit controls developed by the state that shape migration flows; and 3) the links between out-migration and dramatic social transformation in regions, particularly the privatisation of state-owned enterprises, which has led to massive numbers of redundancies and intensified social inequality. In doing so, the research aimed to help the Chinese government utilise labour emigration for development and to present new evidence that would support and enhance meaningful dialogue in the context of the World Trade Organization’s GATS Mode 4 negotiations.

Principal Investigator

Biao Xiang


The Economic and Social Research Council (COMPAS Core Funding)