The good immigrants : how the yellow peril became the model minority

Hsu, Madeline Yuan-yin

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  • "Conventionally, US immigration history has been understood through the lens of restriction and those who have been barred from getting in. In contrast, The Good Immigrants considers immigration from the perspective of Chinese elites--intellectuals, businessmen, and students--who gained entrance because of immigration exemptions. Exploring a century of Chinese migrations, Madeline Hsu looks at how the model minority characteristics of many Asian Americans resulted from US policies that screened for those with the highest credentials in the most employable fields, enhancing American economic competitiveness. The earliest US immigration restrictions targeted Chinese people but exempted students as well as individuals who might extend America's influence in China. Western-educated Chinese such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek became symbols of the US impact on China, even as they patriotically advocated for China's modernization. World War II and the rise of communism transformed Chinese students abroad into refugees, and the Cold War magnified the importance of their talent and training. As a result, Congress legislated piecemeal legal measures to enable Chinese of good standing with professional skills to become citizens. Pressures mounted to reform American discriminatory immigration laws, culminating with the 1965 Immigration Act. Filled with narratives featuring such renowned Chinese immigrants as I. M. Pei, The Good Immigrants examines the shifts in immigration laws and perceptions of cultural traits that enabled Asians to remain in the United States as exemplary, productive Americans."--Book jacket.


  • Includes bibliographical references (pages 313-324) and index.


  • Gateways and gates in American immigration history -- "The Anglo-Saxons of the Orient": student exceptions to the racial bar against Chinese, 1872-1925 -- The China Institute in America: advocating for China through educational exchange, 1926-1937 -- "A pressing problem of interracial justice": repealing Chinese exclusion, 1937-1943 -- The wartime transformation of student visitors into refugee citizens, 1943-1955 -- "The best type of Chinese": aid refugee Chinese intellectuals and symbolic refugee relief, 1952-1960 -- "Economic and humanitarian": propaganda and the redemption of Chinese immigrants through refugee relief -- Symbiotic brain drains: immigration reform and the Knowledge Worker Recruitment act of 1965 -- Conclusion: the American marketplace of brains
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