This research paper investigates the interactions between Italian people and Chinese immigrants in everyday life and focuses on problems and complications that characterize this difficult “cohabitation”. It explores the general situation and conditions that Chinese immigrants have in Italy and the perception that the Italian country and its citizens have towards them. This open-viewed analysis focuses on the Chinese way of living in Italy and how this influences the Italian one.
This shows the contradictions and the appalling conditions that lie underneath their relation and under the Chinese community itself in a foreign country. The study then goes in more depth, paying attention to a specific case: the Chinese community in Prato. This city is one of the provincial administrations in Tuscany and it is close to Florence. In this city, the Chinese presence is evident. You can find Chinese people that have been living there for generations; it is not like being in China Town, a neighborhood that every city has now, because it seems like that Italian people are the foreign ones.
This paper gives depth to this research, taking into account some articles from e-newspapers and it also posits some points of reflection, taking into consideration the readings done in class, especially the readings from: Mobility, Migration and Minorities, as they stress the analysis of the case study (I think that the article of Gladney and the one of Tsuda are relevant for my research). The analysis of the case study is enriched with documentaries and video references about on this topic. I will give also offer my opinion relating to the situation that is present in my own town.
Chinese immigration to Italy began almost a century ago. The People’s Republic of China was born in 1949: emigration from China was unfavorable because of its political closure. Since the policies were opened in the late Seventies, the migration flows started again. Chinese immigrants come mainly from the Chinese province of Zhejiang. Of particular interest is that this area is not a poor region in China, rather it is now facing great economic development. So what has driven thousands and thousands of young people of this region to seek their fortune abroad?
It was probably the opportunity to make success and get rich easily, but it was unfounded. It was not poverty itself that has driven some many Chinese people to emigrate, but rather a lack of opportunity of a certain future. Unfortunately, those who have come here already know that immigrant life in the West is quite hard. It is hard because people do not trust foreigners, especially when they think that these foreigners are stealing their jobs or undermining their economy or country. In Italy there are 186,522 legal Chinese immigrants.
But what are the reasons which prompted the Chinese immigration to Italy? The main driving factor for the Chinese immigration is economic development. Chinese adults who come to Italy have the aim to improve their economic conditions and those of their relatives. They are all entrepreneurs, they do not flee from conditions of poverty as other immigrants. In China economic wealth is not as rare as one would assume. Those who do not have the means to achieve success remaining in China, may try to do it by spending time and investing in business abroad.
Compared to other foreign communities, China one is made ?? up of people who already live in relative comfort at home. Their journey is a business project supported by the economic resources of the parental network – both at home and in their country of destination. Another characteristic of the Chinese group is the tendency to be self-employed – it is extremely rare that a Chinese person works under an Italian or foreign boss – another being the strong trend to migrate with families.
The last two are closely linked to specific entrepreneurial “familism”, characteristic of the Chinese community which tends to organize activities (restaurants, shops, workshops, firms import-export) in which family and business merge together. At the same time, the fact that the Chinese are present on Italian territory with their family, sometimes also including grandparents, shows the very low crime rate within this migrant group. The Chinese community has the poorest Italian language skill among migrant groups. This is not due to its tendency to isolate itself, but the factors mentioned above are part of the cause.
Working in familial enterprises inhibits the Chinese acquisition of the Italian language. Even the reason that drives Chinese adults to reach Italy – economic emancipation – means that migrating to Italy is not permanent, indeed it is not seen as a country in which to start a new life, but rather as temporary measure aimed at allowing the first generation to return to China in old age. In this project, learning Italian – not necessary and definitely a wasteful time-consuming – endeavor is entrusted to the second generation, which grows and gets educated in Italy and lives in a state of complete bi-culturalism.
The welcome policies of a country can do much to ensure a peaceful coexistence to all its citizens. The language barrier that divides the Chinese group (adult) from the Italian community is no doubt a wall, and Chinese and Italian are equally responsible and more or less aware of this. The second generation, unlike the first, did not choose to come to Italy. If from one hand it suffers the choice of parents, the access to local language and communication codes allows it to not be subjected to the Italian society. “The main difference is that for our parents job has priority over everything.
Only the achievement through working justifies all sacrifices done to come in Italy and only succeeding in improving the economic conditions of their families puts them in a position to return in China without remorse, in their hometown where they could finally enjoy retirement. But this inevitably limits their interest in working environment, sacrificing intangible wealth that they can find in the Italian culture and social life. At this limit that we can call subjective, an objective one adds to it: problems that an adult Chinese person finds learning Italian can be insurmountable.
We are luckier than them; we grew up in Italy, we have wider means and interests than our parents. Surely, though, the Chinese of second generation have a special feeling, almost floating between Italy and China, two very different realities. The impression is that costumes, ways of understanding the elements that surround us, cultures that have developed in the story in different directions are merging in us, to confuse us. I consider this feeling a treasure, this feeling is like a person is walking on an imaginary boundary that defines and unites.
But often this is not understood by the society in which we grew up, which seems to refuse, reject us. Maybe we never moved from the Italian territory since we were born. We believe that some laws are unjust, outdated and restrictive, which do not take into account the changes in Italian society, increasingly multiethnic. ” (interview to an Italian guy from the chinese second generation, Marco Bignoli, from Diogene magazine, number 9, 2007) If the situation is still hard for the Chinese of second generation, that are actually Italian, it is easy to imagine how difficult it would be for new immigrants.
Let’s see what the Italian Immigrant Regulation mentions about the migration issue: “It’s citizen by birth: a) the son of a father or mother who are citizens; b) those who are born in the territory of the Republic if both parents are unknown or stateless, or if the child does not follow the citizenship of the parents under the law of the State to which they belong to. It ‘s considered a citizen by birth the son of unknown parents found in the territory of the Republic, if it is proved the possession of other nationality. Article 9. (updating) 1.
Italian citizenship can be granted by decree of President of the Republic, after consulting the Council of State, upon proposal of the Minister of the Interior: a) the foreigner whose father or mother or one of ascendants in the second grade were citizens birth, or that was born in the territory of the Republic, and in both cases, legally resident there for at least three years, however, did except as provided in Article 4, paragraph 1, letter c); b) the foreigner adopted by an Italian citizen who is lawfully resident in the territory of the Republic for at least five years after the adoption; c) an foreigner who has served, even abroad, for least five years for the State; d) a citizen of a Member State of the European Community, if it is legally resident for at least four years in the territory of Republic; e) stateless person residing legally for at least five years in territory of the Republic; f) a foreigner lawfully resident for at least ten years in territory of the Republic. ” (1 and 9 articles, Italian Laws on Immigration, updated 2010).
These are the most important articles in the Italian regulations on immigration. These articles are quite respectful and addressed to immigrants needs, but going into the bureaucratic formality, it is no more practical and helpful for immigrant people. They have to wait lengthy periods for a permit of stay, and lose their time due to the negligence that lies behind the welcome system. The anachronistic factor is that the Italian law lies on the ancient ius sanguinis that stated that the citizenship passed from father to son and that there was no connection to place of origin. Apparently the last government has enacted a measure to solve this deficiency. This act is called “Semplifica Italia” (“Simplify Italy”).
It should accelerate the bureaucratic process, different laws about documentation expiry time, etc. This law will come into force the 1st January 2013, because – as the act reports – “the competent authorities has time to get organized”. Finally, immigrants will face maybe a more organized and hospitable Italy; but the fact is that the Italian country should already have been ready to handle the immigration issue, because it has been facing this problem for years. So, better late than ever. Despite permit of stay and migration bureaucratic problems, immigrants come to Italy because it is a country of transit for the nations in the southern Mediterranean.
They started to arrive after the economic crisis caused by the oil crisis of 1973, because European countries, which had already a fair number of immigrants, closed the borders. Migrants therefore stopped in Italy. In addition, in Italy the illegal employment (black market) is widespread and this attracts all migrants that come illegally or those who entered regularly, but now that do not satisfy the requirements because the permit of stay expired. The causes that attract those who migrate are to improve their living conditions or to escape from situations of serious political crisis – as refugees and political asylum seekers – but also, this is particularly true for women, to become economically independent and emancipated.
The choice of which country migrate in is not just determined by economic reasons but also by migration networks, in short immigrants go to countries where friends or relatives have already migrated , so they provide help in finding jobs, homes etc. So, let’s see how and why Chinese community started to settle in Italy. In Italy the first Chinese community settled in Milan, then in Rome, afterwards in Florence and Prato. In Milan the main Chinese activities focused – and still focus – on restaurant industries and trade, while in Florence and Prato they developed businesses related to tanning and confection. Chinese people in Florence and in Prato have taken advantage of a particular economic situation: the crisis of textile production and leather goods allowed Chinese to buy lab equipment at low prices.
Thanks to their legendary industriousness, endurance and mutual aid could -and can- monopolize this sector, but not without huge sacrifices. It was not easy for Chinese pioneers in Florence: the creation of Chinese high-density developments was interpreted as a real threat – an invasion. Intolerance and tension were very strong. The authorities were completely unprepared for such a situation. Only with subsequent calming, the situation returned to normal. In the Nineties, many Chinese moved to Florence and Prato to take advantage of employment opportunities offered by the textile industry.
The ability to adapt has led Chinese to settle slowly in other Italian cities, and now there are Chinese communities of various sizes throughout the Italian country. Episodes of intolerance are still present and many difficulties inevitably involve every immigrant (language, bureaucracy, etc.. ). But now the Chinese are an integral part of the Italian economy. The development of Chinese immigration in Prato, which occurred since 1990, was determined not only by arrivals from the People’s Republic of China but also from numerous arrivals from various Italian cities, or European, where Chinese communities of old constitution had place. The data and percentage results were registered by Caritas and the Migrantes Foundation. The 2005 data indicate that just over 64% (5,564 of 8,636, equal to64.
43%) of Chinese residents has come to Prato directly from China and about 20% were born in Italy or in other foreign countries than their own country (in most cases, France). The comparison with 2004 data shows a sharp increase in births in China that is mainly determined by who was from Zhejiang, historically the major Chinese component in Prato (and in the rest of Italy). Their number has grown to nearly 1,400 units, but its percentage tails of due to the growth of Fujian and Manchuria natives (Northeast China area which includes the three provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang) that, still maintaining a low number, show very high growth rates last year (+ 52. 31% Fujian, Manchuria +58.
14% +27. 09% against noted between the native in Zhejiang). At the same time, the growth whose born in Italy keeps on increasing, even if with a rate growth significantly lower than that found for the natives of China (born in Italy +20%, +28% born in China). Especially the number who is born in Prato is increasing, which rose from 1,266 to 1,507 and constitute over 17% of total residents. The experience of migration prior to the acquisition of residence in Prato is quite spread, and includes many cases of re-immigration into the town after a temporary period of returning to China or to some Italian cities (295 cases, 20% of those born in Prato).
The 24% of people who were born in Italy come from a different place than the native one; and among those who were married in Italy (whose number is gradually increased, starting from 85 reported in 1995 to arrive, then, to 336, 2000 and continue to rise up to 545 in 2004 and 609 of 2005) only in about 84%of cases the marriage was celebrated in the place of origin (14 cases) or Prato (500 cases). As mentioned above, the majority of Chinese in the area of Prato come from a limited area of ?? Zhejiang, a region of southern China, and especially the city of Wenzhou.
More precisely, at the beginning of last century the first Chinese communities settled in the countries of continental Europe. The first Chinese people arrived in France to take the place of French workers who left their jobs to go to the front of the First World War. At the end of the conflict, many Chinese decided to stay there, beginning a migration process that led to the creation of the first Chinese community in Europe.
In the late Nineties, Prato has seen a boom in migration from the Zhejiang Province cause of the approval of certain provisions of law, which provided for the regularization of immigrants. In recent decades, the type of migration has changed, if only men migrated in the past, now entire families move. Children born from Chinese parents in Prato are already more than 1300, 18% of the community. The transformation of Prato, just outside Florence, marks an important chapter in the phenomenon of immigration in Europe. This city has become the new entry for Chinese ambitions. As in some suburbs, in the periphery and small town in the U. S. where Mexicans and other immigrants gather looking for jobs, Prato is a place where two culturally different communities can live side by side without really knowing each other.
“In all my travels I had never seen anything like this” said Roberto Ye, an Italian citizen, son of Chinese immigrants, who opened a Western Union office in the heart of Prato. “I said: it is not like being in Chinatown in Chicago or in New York or anywhere else. It’s like being in China. Whites are the real foreigners here”. To understand the impact just following the flow of money. This year the Chinese immigrants in Italy sent home 1. 68 billion euros, most of the 6 billion euros in remittances recorded by the Italian Government. “Forget about everything you’ve learned on immigration when you come to Prato. Forget the typical models. Europe has become a global market and the Chinese who arrive are trying to get advantage” says Andrea Frattani, councilor for multiculturalism in Prato.
Frattani has been guarding immigration since 2002 and since then, he says that Italy has seen an alarming increase in the exploitation of Chinese labor. Prato has witnessed an exceptional wave. “In this city there are 180,000 inhabitants whose 30,000 are Chinese people living here regularly. It is thought that another 30,000 illegal immigrants live here. Many Chinese work in small hidden up factories for 14 hours a day. They isolate themselves, pay everything with cash and see the work as a mission”, says Frattani. Prato is the core of Pronto Moda (Fast fashion) – a manufacturing sector that produces clothes at low prices overwhelmed by Chinese workers and entrepreneurs.
Government officials estimate that 5,500 textile workshops and factories in the area that have long been the backbone of the small Italian company now owned by Chinese. Large warehouses line the road leading to the historic center of Prato. In past years the police have raided hundreds of crowded workshops, where the Chinese live, work and sleep. They are underpaid but apparently they produce articles of clothing that can be sold even in fashion designer shops. Some of them find excuses for breaking labor laws. The workers say that they find better working conditions in Italy than in China. But the police clams that the Italia and Chinese entrepreneurs exploit the weak workers. Italians subcontract to Chinese businessmen to hide suspicious practices.
Chinese bosses command over people who desperately need job. “Chinese businesses exist in Italy but are not part of Italy. There has been migration but not integration “. Dongke Mo, who heads the Italian-Chinese association in Prato, said that his office is a shelter for Chinese workers: they struggle with hard work demands and face several raids of Italian financial police. “In America immigrants are integrated. In Italy, the Chinese are seen as workforce to exploit”, Mo said. In December 2007, a national television channel broadcasted “Slave of Luxury”, a documentary about famous Italian fashion brands involved in exploiting and underpaying Chinese workers.
Prada and Ferragamo, mentioned in the report, resulted subcontracting, when they were advised about the problem. This report did not show anything new. Italian and Chinese entrepreneurs already knew this situation, also because they were already involved. Chinese workers keep “Made in Italy” alive. Now Prato is hosting the largest concentration of Chinese in Europe – some legally, many more illegally. Chinese workers work day and night in 3,200 firms manufacturing clothes, shoes and accessories at low-quality, often with materials imported from China, to sell them at half price to retailers in the world. This was supported by the fact that in Italy there are weak institutions and high tolerance for those who break the rules.
So the Chinese have blurred the distinction between “Made in China” and “Made in Italy”. But what irritates Italian people the most is that the Chinese beat them at their own game – tax evasion and clever ways to bypass the complex Italian bureaucracy – and they created a new flourishing industry, but largely submerged, while in Prato many companies do not make it. This is the rise of the “fast fashion”. The Chinese in Prato sent to China – according to the Bank of Italy – 1. 5 million dollars a day, mostly from the textile sector and clothing. The profits of those dimensions do not appear on income tax returns. According to local officials, the Chinese prefer to repatriate profits instead of investing them locally.
The authorities also say that the Chinese and probably Italian organized crime is increasing, not only in regards to illegal textile imports, but also human trafficking, prostitution, gambling and money laundering. Tensions have been running high since the Italian authorities stepped up raids this spring on workshops that use illegal labor, and grew even more when Italian prosecutors arrested 24 people and investigated 100 businesses in the Prato area in late June. The charges included money laundering, prostitution, counterfeiting and classifying foreign-made products as “Made in Italy. ” Yet many Chinese in Prato are offended at the idea that they have ruined the city.
Instead, some argue, they have helped rescue Prato from total economic irrelevance, another way of saying that if the Italian state fails to innovate and modernize the economy, somebody else just might. “If the Chinese hadn’t gone to Prato, would there be pronto moda? ” asked Matteo Wong, 30, who was born in China and raised in Prato and runs a consulting office for Chinese immigrants. “Did the Chinese take jobs away from Italians? If anything, they brought lots of jobs to Italians. ” (Donadio, Rachel. 12, 2010 . “Chinese remake the Made in Italy fashion label”, New York Times) The fact that the Chinese have begun to take jobs that Italians did not want to do anymore is undeniable. So it is true as in some situations the Chinese are under paid and work excessively long hours.
These mechanisms have been reinforced by the economic crisis. At this point it is interesting to quote the “Movimento Contoterzisti” (Contactor Movement) who replies to Chinese consul’s accusation regarding Italian blitz methods. “Your community is taking hold of our main working sectors, from which only raw products come out, originated mainly from China, and you spread them as they were made in Italy. They accuse us of not wanting to do our job, but it is not true. Did we have to get to this point? In China could we have done what your countrymen are doing illegally here? ” (Pagni, Luca. January 12th 2010, “Sindrome a Prato”). Tension is running high, because of authorities raids.
In the following video it is showed the tremendous conditions where Chinese workers work and live in. http://video. corriere. it/laboratorio-schiavi/184c5590-5d93-11e1-8d58-29f34aaed5a4 In this video the authorities show what happened during one of their raids in an illegal Chinese factory. The woman who is sewing on is interviewed by an official and a reporter. She says that she can’t speak Italian and that she works just 8 hours a day, but the two women reply that is quite impossible because she is in Italy since 2003 so she should have learnt a bit of Italian and furthermore it is likely possible that she works more than 8 hours a day, otherwise it is not explainable the presence of beds at the upper floor.
In another room, the authorities find a woman with two children. In the room the temperature is really low and the children are too young to stay in a place so cold for hours. Moreover, in the room it is possible to smell the varnish that they use for working and that is very dangerous for children’s health. Even if all these women have a permit of stay, the conditions of their work place are appalling and illegal. “The work — long hours at sewing machines — takes place in back-room workshops with makeshift sleeping quarters. The heart of the “fast fashion” sector is an industrial area on the outskirts of town, Macrolotto, filled with Chinese fashion wholesalers.
Warehouse after warehouse is filled with racks of low-end, trendy women’s garments. There are trucks, vans and cars from all over Europe and the Middle East that have come for the “made in Italy” brand at “made in China” prices. By buying in relatively small quantities and taking advantage of the fluid borders of the European Union, most manage to avoid paying import tariffs. So, hundreds of metal racks are filled with clothes. There are no brand labels, just one tag with the status symbol words “a real product made in Italy,” even though all of the fabric comes from China. ” (Donadio, Rachel. September 12, 2010 . “Chinese remake the Made in Italy fashion label”, New York Times).
Chinese think that police raids are hindering business, unsettling the their local community to the point that many workers had gone into hiding. “People are afraid,” one of them said. “This was a political decision. At first, they left us too free. Now they are tightening things too much. ” Much of the tightening comes from Prato’s new administration, which wants to stop this phenomenon through blitz. In Prato, Italy, the Chinese manager of a textile factory closed it down after a police raid. In the first half of this year, the authorities raided 154 Chinese-owned businesses — out of more than 3,000. To do the job, “We’d need an army of people,” said Lina Iervasi, the head of the Prato Police Department’s immigration office.
Earlier this year, several officers in that office were arrested on charges that they took bribes in exchange for granting residence permits. “We don’t go on the hunt for the illegal immigrants. We’re not so crazy as to do that,” said Mr. Savi, the former police chief. “But we seek a balance between norms and reality. ” That balance has been strikingly hard to find. Many illegal Chinese immigrants arrive by bus from Russia or the Balkans, and either destroy their passports or give them away to the organized crime groups that help bring them. Many others overstay their tourist visas. “Italy has a 20th-century immigration law; it tends to think of immigrants as a phenomenon linked to work, in which people move from poor countries to rich ones,” said Andrea Frattani.
Instead, he argued, what Italy is witnessing in Prato is “a precise strategy” on the part of the Chinese government to create an economic foothold in Europe. Asked at a recent public appearance if that was the case, China’s ambassador to Italy, Ding Wei, said only that Prato had been a central issue in his portfolio since he arrived in the spring, and that he had sent advisers to investigate. “I’ve been very attentive to resolving the question of Prato, which is unique and particular,” he said. “It should not have an impact on the cooperation between our countries. ” Italians in Prato are feeling less sanguine. “At 20, I was sure the world was mine,” said Mr. Nesi, 45, the culture commissioner and a writer whose family sold its three-generation, high-end textile business in 2004.
“It’s hard to accept that all this happened in a short time,” he said, bewildered. “It makes us feel old and without hope. ” (Donadio, Rachel. September 12, 2010 . “Chinese remake the Made in Italy fashion label”, New York Times) One very important Italian broadcast – Annozero – showed a reportage about the illegal Chinese work in Prato and what authorities could do and what they should do. http://www. achab50. it/article-annozero-laboratori-cinesi-a-prato-102178172. html This press story shows how Chinese market and system does not feel the economic crisis and what stratagems are used. Their factories are in the heart of the industrial area of Prato.
Trucks from all over Europe – especially East Europe – come to stock up with clothes at really cheap prices. Even Italian, and especially people from Prato, go there to buy massive quantities of clothes. The first interviewed man owns a stand in the square clothing market. He sometime comes at the Chinese warehouses to buy clothes just because they have the best prices. The woman after him continues saying that she works in clothing shop and a cause of these hard times, she prefers buying cheaper products here rather than buying them at higher prices from Italian factories. Then she adds that she can work because she sells clothes at low prices, instead the shop next to her has economic problem because it maintains crazy prices.
At this point the reporter asks to a young Chinese if they perceive the economic crisis, and she immediately replies that they do not feel it, everything goes right. They have a thriving market and they have commercial relationships also outside Italy – the woman says “everywhere”. One Romanian truck driver tries to say that Chinese do not charge products with taxes because they defraud the taxman – they rarely make an invoice – and no tax assessor goes to control the situation. All the interviewed people stress the fact that Chinese workers work in awful and illegal conditions. So the reporter asks to another Chinese woman where the workrooms are and if it is possible to visit them inside. She replied, “It is better if you do not go. ”
The journalist goes to the area where the workrooms are and knocks to the doors several time, but no one opens. Finally, she sees a girl going into one workshop and she asks her if she speaks Italian and if she can go in with her, but the answer is always “No, no! ” An Italian woman outside states, “If you see covered windows, you can be sure that it is an illegal Chinese building. ” This images represent what is showed in the video. The military corps dealing with customs, excise and tax crimes make a blitz in an illegal Chinese workroom. They immediately ask if someone speaks Italian, none answer. Then they ask for identity cards, permit of stay papers and passports.
One of the authorities says to the reporter that in this building they have created a false structure that hides bedrooms, so they can sleep in the work place. These bedrooms do not follow the hygienic and sanitary rules. Only three people have a regular permit of stay, instead other three ones are without identity documents, so basically considered illegal aliens. The fact is that the authorities do not have the power and conditions to close the activity because they have to make sure if everything is in order or not. Then the host of Annozero asks, “How do 4000 Chinese factories managed to settle in Prato? ” “They have learnt quickly, they arrived in Italy being just Contoterzisti (contractors).
So at the beginning they sewed for Italian entrepreneurs and for Italian factories, but in few years they have learnt how to become purchasers, and now they have a stable presence in the Italian market and they also give jobs to Italian people, but especially to other Chinese people” replied the expert. Their trade survives because they do not pay taxes, work under the table, exploit workers and control an endless amount of illegal aliens that are ready to come depending on the need.
Every day, they send 1 million of euros from Prato to China, that is what appraisals mark, through little cash deposits at money transfer desks. They assess 384 million of euros in 2008. “Is true that those factories and activities do not last more than 18 months? ”, the host asks. The expert replies that this is completely true, because in the early 18 months it is less probable that the economic authorities come for make some checks.
There is a rotation: the 60% of Chinese factories opened at the beginning of the year disappear at the end, and they open again under a new name and owner, but obviously a relative of the former owner. In this way, they do not pay taxes and if the officials fine them, they close and re-open a “new” activity, so the fine vanishes. “Are they the direct cause of the textile sector crisis? ”No, because they do not product textiles, they do product clothes but they import textiles from China. Now the interview is focused on a former Italian entrepreneur who explains how things have changed in few years. “If in a factory of 100 workers, 20 were illegal, what happened? ”asks the reporter. The man replies that before the entrepreneur had to close his activity, get everyone in order and pay a fine.
Courtney from Study Moose
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