More and more Americans of Chinese descent are moving away from traditional Chinatowns and into more traditional American suburbs. The trend is also taking root in the United States’ capital of Washington D.C. CGTN’s Jim Spellman reports.
In decades past many Chinese immigrants arriving in the United States settled in urban Chinatowns. The newcomers often did not speak English and faced intense discrimination. They found comfort in the familiar sights and sounds of Chinatowns in cities like New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C.
The Chinese are the third-largest U.S. immigrant group. According to the Pew Research Center, new Chinese immigrants are now often better educated than their 19th century predecessors. They and have more resources than in the past. Many of the 5 million people of Chinese descent in the U.S. now choose to live, work and raise families in places like Rockville, Maryland outside Washington D.C., where nearly 1 in 10 people here are of Chinese descent.
“They originally came to Chinatown because of certain jobs and language limitations, but now the second generation and third generation have skills,” said Ted Gong from the Chinese American Citizens Alliance. “They want a better life, so they go to Maryland or Virginia, they have the schools, the programs and better housing and places to play with the kids.”
Rockville has become a kind of “New Chinatown” with Chinese restaurants, grocery stores, bubble tea shops, radios stations and newspapers.
Bob Liu runs a Chinese restaurant in the city, and he too thinks social changes have resulted in more and more Chinese putting down roots about a 45-minute drive north of Washington’s traditional Chinatown.
“Right now, the Chinese come in with a lot of capital and a lot of knowledge, so they don’t have to stay together like in the old Chinatown” Liu said. “Chinese,right now, are spread around, away from the city just like Americans.”
Liu thinks this trend is for the better. He says living away from a traditional Chinatown allows his children to assimilate into American society.
State Senator Susan Lee, the first Chinese American elected to the Maryland General Assembly in the House of Delegates, feels this can only be a good thing.
“They not only bring their own views as Americans,” Lee said. “But they bring their culture and their background, too, and they bring a rich diversity … and contribute enormously to the economic vitality.”
But despite more and more Chinese settling in the suburbs, the traditional Chinatowns still play an important role in American history and to many Chinese Americans.
“The Chinatown here (in Washington) still has a purpose. It still provides that cultural touchstone,” Gong said. “Even though I’m third or fourth generation Chinese American, I still want to find something that ties me to my roots or Chinese American roots.”