Cyber China and parallel lives: internet use by Chinese migrant netizens in New Zealand

TitleCyber China and parallel lives: internet use by Chinese migrant netizens in New Zealand
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Yin, H.
Affiliation (1st Author)University of Auckland
Section or WGDiaspora and Media Working Group
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeDIAW4a
Slot Code (Keyword)DIAW4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session Title Social Media/ Cyberspace
Submission ID5229

This paper investigates how internet use influences Chinese migrant life and experience in New Zealand. Current studies have identified the internet as a potent factor – influencing pre-migration decision making, easing the transition of migrants in their new home, and facilitating adaptation and integration. However, findings from this research reveal that internet use can have negative impacts on migrant socialisation and integration in the host country. For the purpose of providing a nuanced understanding of internet use by migrants and its influence, this qualitative research included an online survey and in-depth interviews with Chinese migrant netizens in New Zealand who are originally from the People’s Republic of China. The results are synthesised from the descriptive statistical analysis of the online survey and the discourse analysis based on the interviews.Findings show that some migrants use the internet as a “safe haven” either because of their failed attempts to socialise with local people or their lack of social networks in the mainstream host society. As shown in the online survey, language familiarity, information acquisition, and connection with China are found to be the major reasons for migrant netizens’ partiality shown towards the use of Chinese-language internet services. Their knowledge about Chinese and non-Chinese internet services also plays an important role. In-depth interviews suggest that this internet use preference sets obstacles for their cultural integration to the host society while facilitating adaptation in their new home. Arguably, internet use helps to turn these new migrants into “functional individuals” in their daily life, but much less so when it comes to migrant integration. Most significantly, the extensive use of the Chinese-language internet helps these migrant netizens to create an imagined “Cyber China”, which soothes nostalgia and allows the re-creation of a familiar cultural virtual world. The internet use pattern allows migrant netizens to lead parallel lives – one in the physical world of the host country and the other in the imagined Cyber China. The parallel lives enabled by the internet would exert great impact on the identity construction of Chinese migrant netizens in New Zealand.

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