Chinese Migration and Economic Relations with Europe

Editors:      Marco Sanfilippo; Agnieszka Weinar

ISBN:           978-1138819405Chinese Migration and Economic Relations with Europe 2016

Publisher: Routledge

Year:           2016

Pages:         202

Price:         $ 160,00



Reviewed by Felix Wiebrecht, Department of Politics, East China Normal University, China

With the “going out” policy the Chinese government has been encouraging its enterprises to invest abroad and since then foreign direct investment (FDI) from China into European countries has flourished and reached new all-time highs. While a lot of research has been conducted on the economic dimension of the “going out” strategy initiated by the Chinese government, the relationship between migration and investment has not yet been subject to in-depth analysis.

Marco Sanfilippo and Agnieszka Weinar’s edited work is attempting to fill this gap by making the first comprehensive effort to provide an analysis about the relationship between growing Chinese investment and migration into Europe. The book with contributions from various different scholars aims at illustrating the relationship between migration, trade and investment and factor mobility. One of the main aspects this book attempts to analyse is the part played by the Chinese diaspora and the migration of Chinese people into countries following increased trade and investment. In other words, what roles do existing Chinese communities abroad play in facilitating or attracting FDIs or does FDI follow Chinese settlement abroad, and what kinds of migration flows from China does investment overseas initiate. These are questions that are not to be neglected when considering China’s increased outward investment and increased importance in international trade and relations.

By combining migration studies and more economic approaches like transaction-costs theory the work successfully tackles the posed questions. Assessing this relationship between all of Europe and China is a considerable effort since the situations in different countries in Europe vary considerably. Nevertheless, Sanfilippo and Weinar have successfully mastered this undertaking by providing five different detailed case studies that highlight different developments going on simultaneously in Europe. Situations in Italy, Portugal, Germany, Poland and Russia are significantly different and also shaped by different circumstances as for instance Portugal experienced the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent economic crises more intense than other countries. While of course not exhaustive, the selection of case studies is nevertheless very helpful for the underlying issues.

The volume also highly benefits from the relatively well-established conformity of individual contributions. Each case study aims to answer the same questions in different countries and in turn assess whether existing diaspora networks have contributed to attract new investments and to what extent new investments have led to new inflows of migration. Although this might not necessarily enhance the reading flow, it nevertheless contributes to a better understanding of the relationships at work.

Using this methodological framework the authors are successfully answering all the research questions. The authors find that “Chinese migration into Europe does not represent an exception” (p. 7) to overall Chinese migration patterns that are very diverse and fragmented, and are continuing to alter. The authors analyse that both, migration to Europe and investment into Europe have increased significantly and simultaneously in recent years. Different groups of people got attracted by Europe since the opening up of the Chinese economy. In the 1990s “a new wave of entrepreneurial migrants” (p. 44) arrived in Europe while we currently see a substantial increase of migration of (highly)skilled Chinese to Europe that also include students pursuing degrees in Europe. In addition, due to the development of the Chinese economy, more and more Chinese companies are also expanding and sending managers, professionals and workers to Europe.

The complexity of the authors’ project, namely to analyse the link between economic developments of Chinese investment into Europe and migration flows from China to Europe is also illustrated by the varying results they find. The hypothesis that existing diaspora communities will also make a country more attractive for investments does not necessarily hold true. Although as the authors hold “the importance of a particular nation in the total Chinese migrants and its relative share in total Chinese FDI stock and trade in Europe is positively linked” (p.46), this just describes correlation and not necessarily causality. The examples of Portugal and Russia are quite interesting in this respect. Both countries have seen an upsurge in investment and migration from China, though they are not directly related. In the case of Portugal, Chinese investors stepped in to acquire shares from state-owned enterprises that were privatised in an effort to gain short-term sources of income. However, these acquisitions are not directly related to the existing community of Chinese people in Portugal.

In turn, the case study from Prato in Italy is a great illustration of how a changing economic development also affects migratory patterns. As many Chinese migrants, originally working as subcontractors of the local clothing firms, set up their own businesses, they also created new job opportunities that attracted new Chinese moving to Prato. Also in Germany and Poland and to a lesser extent in Portugal and Russia, Chinese investments in consequence lead to attract more migration from China into these countries, especially for (highly) skilled and students.

One of the main problems of finding a relationship between migration and investment is to find causality. Scholars should be wary not to infer a direct link between the two just from statistics. Taking into account the different levels of analysis one must note that there are different considerations. Migration and outward investment are simultaneously ongoing processes, however, they might not be related to each other in a causal link as the case from Portugal illustrates.

A great contribution of the book lies in the fact that it illustrates that for investment, an existing overseas community might not be as important as different economic theories have suggested. In Portugal, Russia and Poland investments were targeted at specific sectors of the economy that the Chinese community was not involved, while in Italy, the case study highlights how the overseas community dealt with its situation. Investment processes therefore seem to led more by economic and market considerations rather than being heavily influenced by overseas communities.

In conclusion, this volume answers the questions it sets out to respond to and therefore provides a well-written and constructive attempt at shining more light on the relationship between migration, diaspora communities and investment in and to Europe. Although the authors could have provided some more clarification on what the direct links between migration and investment flows are, this work is nevertheless worth reading.


Suggested Citation:

Felix Wiebrecht (2017), Review of “Chinese Migration and Economic Relations with Europe”, by Marco Sanfilippo (ed.), Agnieszka Weinar (ed.), East Asian Integration Studies, Vol. 10, no. 5.