Chinese Australian Urban Politics in the Context of Globalisation

Jen Tsen Kwok


Globalisation and the rise of East Asia have accelerated the migration of Chinese populations across the Asia-Pacific rim. Ethnic Chinese populations from highly diverse sub-ethnic, socio-economic and political backgrounds are increasingly aggregated in major cities throughout the region. Nonetheless, there remains insufficient attention to the implications of greater economic interdependence and accelerated population movement upon the political cultures of host nations such as Australia, especially in the context of ensuing spatial and economic concentrations of activity.

Both articulate and interlocking relationships between political and economic fields exist in the metropolitan engagements of Chinese Australian community groups and associations. Many of these political dimensions extend into ‘formal’ modes of politics.

Framed by urban regime theory and the broader notion of urban politics, this paper claims that network resource exchange within Chinese Australian communities are tied to ethnic economies, and in certain contexts global processes. These kinds of social dynamics have implications for the expression of diasporic Chinese affinity and constructions of Chineseness. Explorations of transnational political tensions, in fact, highlight the diversity and potential fragility of diasporic interdependence within ethnic Chinese communities – communities that are persistently refashioned through new waves of migration and from different points of origin.

This paper seeks to advance these perspectives through a case study of a particular period of tension between two representative peak bodies in Brisbane, Queensland. Grounded in the testimony of elite political actors, it reflects upon the nature of ethnic Chinese community representation in contemporary Australia.

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