Explaining the development of migrant business in Beijing

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-406
Journal / PublicationAsian and Pacific Migration Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


This article argues that restrictive laws against migrants in Beijing, China have some unexpected consequences which turn out to be conducive to the survival and development of migrant businesses. First, restrictive and discriminatory legislation compels migrants to cooperate with locals, illegally or semi-legally, in order to get into the market. Locals are willing to provide migrants with protection in exchange for monetary interests. The cooperative relationship between migrants and locals renders the state and its agents unable or unwilling to strictly enforce the restrictive laws. Second, in response to discriminatory and restrictive regulations, migrants turn to informal rules and communal solidarity. Third, given the hostile legal environment, migrants tend to be ambivalent about settling down in big cities. As a result, they work harder and spend less. These factors enable migrants to survive the hostile legal environment and achieve considerable economic success. In turn, their economic success gives them more bargaining power to consolidate their cooperation with locals and gain a de facto existence in the city.