Transnational Economies, Digital Labor and Globalization: Exploring Chinese Entrepreneurs’ Mobilities and Connections

Panel organised by: Beatrice Zani (University Tuebingen; ENS Lyon)
& Yu-chin Tseng (University Tuebingen)


Panel topic

The transnational economic activities, trading processes and e-commerce developed by Chinese migrant entrepreneurs and traders in a globalized world (Asia, South-East- Asia, Europe and Africa)

Panel description

Globalization together with contemporary social, economic, and technological transformations have strongly intensified Chinese migrants’ mobilities across and beyond Asia. The ramification and complexification of Chinese migratory paths have created novel opportunities for local and global interconnectedness, transnational social networks, and globalized commerce. In this respect, the growing use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and digital applications by migrants requires new scrutiny. Clearly, ICT represent an effective tool for migrants to keep in touch with their country of origin and with multi-sited networks. No doubt that ICT generate profound changes in the ways people on the move build bridges between what is ‘here’ and what is ‘there’ by the a. Yet, what catches our attention is the way these support the setting and development of entrepreneurial activities across transnational spaces .

In this panel, we investigate the novel link emerging between Chinese migrations, entrepreneurship, and ICT in the global world. We call into question long-established paradigms in migration studies to apprehend the intricacy and dynamism of Chinese migrant entrepreneurs’ mobilities and commercial activities, produced and performed inside physical and digital spaces. Through a comparative approach, across ad beyond Asian borders, we ascertain the necessity to bring together different empirical research and case studies to capture the novelty and the complexity of such transnational mobilities and digitalized commercial activities. Challenging the traditional dichotomy ‘country of origin and country of arrival’, it urges to explore the multiple connections across space, borders, social networks  and markets enabled by ICT, of which the application WeChat (微信), massively used by Chinese people, is illustrative of. At the same time, transnational entrepreneurship and e-commerce cannot be simply associated to new forms of global interconnection. They call into question established taxonomies of ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top down’ globalizations and suggest the emergence of new cosmopolitanisms. Broadly, they show the hybrid, syncretic and dynamic shape that globalization can take at the crossroad between mobilities, global economy and digital worlds. In this respect, the digitalization of labor and the transnationalization of trading bring about the transgression of borders and contestation of markets , which also deserve attention. Thereby, the analysis must consider the presence of local and global social, economic and moral inequalities and hierarchies Chinese migrant entrepreneurs need to cope with within the different spaces invested by their mobilities. Such a scrutiny of social inequalities can be associated with individuals’ repertories of competences, imaginaries, and aspirations, which help to overstep structural constraints to mobilize resources to succeed both in migratory and entrepreneurial projects.

This pluri-disciplinary panel aims at proposing a cutting-the-edge reflection on the novel physical and digital, local and global entrepreneurial practices by Chinese migrant entrepreneurs. We welcome contributions that focus on one or several of the following topics:

  • The economic and commercial geographies of Chinese migrant entrepreneurs’ practices
  • The different kinds of mobilities embedded in migrant entrepreneurship, which include the mobility of objects, commodities, and capital across and beyond Asia
  • The use of ICT and digital platforms in forging and shaping mobility paths and entrepreneurial practices
  • Migrants’ imaginaries, aspirations and their role in shaping migration and transnational entrepreneurship
  • The role of migration and mobility policies in shaping the capacity of migrants to transform their transnational experiences of mobility into a resource for business
  • The making of transnational spaces, digital geographies, the transgression of, the contestation of markets and trading regulations by migrants’ business
  • The gendered dimension of Chinese migrants’ transnational entrepreneurship, and its possible connection to class, age, and migration experience
  • New methodological approaches for exploring cross-border digital mobilities in transnationalism and entrepreneurship research

This panel aims at promoting pluri-disciplinary reflection, debate but also at publishing. Based on conference papers, we intend to submit a special issue to an international peer-reviewed journal (our target may include: The Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, Critical Asian Studies, The China Quarterly).

Professor Dr. Antonella Ceccagno, Sociologist and Sinologist, University of Bologna

Dr. Claudia Astarita, Lecturer, Sciences Po Lyon, Lyon’s Institute of Asian Studies (IAO), Dr. Eliza Benites Gambirazo, Post-doctoral research fellow CNRS, Centre Max Weber, Lyon 2 University, Dr. Jaok Know, Assistant Professor, Centre for East Asian Studies, Heidelberg University, Dr. Iris Polyzou, French School of Athens

Paper proposal

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