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Chinese Immigrants In America Essay

2460 words - 10 pages

After the first wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in the United States in the early 1840s during the California Gold Rush, many Chinese people continued to travel across the Pacific, escaping poor conditions in China with hopes and ambitions for a better life in America. Many more Chinese immigrants began arriving into the 1860s on the Pacific coast for work in other areas such as the railroad industry. The immigrants noticed an increasing demand for their labor because of their readiness to work for low wages. Many of those who arrived did not plan to stay long, and therefore there was no push for their naturalization. The immigrants left a country with thousands of years of a “decaying feudal system,” corruption, a growing population, and the downfall of the Qing dynasty. By 1894, over one million Chinese lived and worked abroad with about 90,000 of those Chinese people in America. Originally, the United States had significant plans for Chinese immigration to California. These plans would better its trade relationship with Asia and further develop the still new land of the Pacific coast. The demand for jobs increased as a result. The Chinese Opium Wars with Britain, the Red Turban Rebellion, and a harsh economy all served as motivation to exit China and find a new life in Gam Saan, the Gold Mountain. For many immigrants, the Gam Saan led to possibilities of employment, higher pay, larger houses, stable food, fine clothing, and no war. These hopeful immigrants first arrived voluntarily and as free laborers.
As an economic future for Chinese immigrants began to look bright, the job market began to be saturated by Chinese laborers working for low pay and long hours, eventually causing the growing sense of anti-Chinese sentiment in the US. By the end of the 1870s, the job market in San Francisco presented one Chinese job for every two white jobs. The growth of Chinese jobs in the California labor market did not stop there. Because of the hard times, employers found it especially attractive that the Chinese workers would work for long hours with low pay. Huge losses hit California in 1876 with a drought; this led to unemployment across the coast including for the Chinese. Many white investors, however, used the Chinese as scapegoats for this statewide depression, fueling the anti-Chinese fire and leading to more hostility towards Chinese workers. The firsthand account of Lee Chew, a Chinese immigrant to America in the early 1880s, shows the disparities between the white man’s perception of Chinese laborers and reality as well as the hostility that arose as a result. When Lee first arrived in America, he started working as a housekeeper for a family in California, being paid $3.50 a week and being able to keep 50 cents afterwards. For Lee and other Chinese immigrants, they believed the hostility arose from jealousy in the labor market, “because he [Chinese worker] is a more faithful worker than one of their people, [and they] have raised...

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