[{"command":"settings","settings":{"basePath":"\/","pathPrefix":"","ajaxPageState":{"theme":"ssn","theme_token":"KBp4N4PLl8hdjd6lrPgDqH4670M-Foymb2Oy8E6T1Ls","jquery_version":"1.8"},"CToolsModal":{"loadingText":"Loading...","closeText":"Close Window","closeImage":"\u003Cimg typeof=\u0022foaf:Image\u0022 src=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/sites\/all\/modules\/ctools\/images\/icon-close-window.png\u0022 alt=\u0022Close window\u0022 title=\u0022Close window\u0022 \/\u003E","throbber":"\u003Cimg typeof=\u0022foaf:Image\u0022 src=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/sites\/all\/modules\/ctools\/images\/throbber.gif\u0022 alt=\u0022Loading\u0022 title=\u0022Loading...\u0022 \/\u003E"}},"merge":true},{"command":"modal_display","title":"Republish this content","output":"\u003Cdiv id=\u0022soc_modal_wrapper\u0022\u003E\n \u003Cdiv id=\u0022soc_guidelines\u0022\u003E\n \u003Cdiv id=\u0022soc_license\u0022\u003E\n\u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/creativecommons.org\/licenses\/by-nd\/4.0\/\u0022 target=\u0022_blank\u0022\u003E\u003Cimg typeof=\u0022foaf:Image\u0022 src=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/sites\/all\/modules\/stealourcontent\/images\/cc-by-nd-4.png\u0022 alt=\u0022License\u0022 \/\u003E\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\n \u003Cp\u003ELike this content? Republish it! But please do not edit the piece. Also make sure that you attribute the author, and mention the article was originally published on Scholars Strategy Network. \u003Cem\u003EBy copying and pasting the markup below you will be adhering to these guidelines.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Cp\u003E\u003Ca href=\u0022\/republishing-ssn-articles\u0022\u003EView additional guideline details.\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003C\/div\u003E\n\n \u003Ctextarea\u003E\n \u003Cdiv about=\u0022\/brief\/untold-story-chinese-restaurants-america\u0022 typeof=\u0022sioc:Item foaf:Document\u0022 class=\u0022ds-1col node node-brief view-mode-stealourcontent_node clearfix\u0022\u003E\n \u003Ch2\u003E\n The Untold Story of Chinese Restaurants in America\n \u003C\/h2\u003E\u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/scholar\/heather-r-lee\u0022\u003EHeather R. Lee\u003C\/a\u003E, NYU Shanghai\n \u003Cp\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EVirtually every American community has Chinese restaurants \u2013 and the story of how this came to be is fascinating and highly revealing about the often unintended impact of U.S. immigration rules. This ethnic food industry started to grow rapidly in the early twentieth century, at a time when anti-Chinese sentiment was pervasive. How did these restaurants open in large numbers when the American public despised Chinese and suspected them of eating the flesh of cats, dogs, and rats? To unravel this conundrum, I did archival research and analyzed historical statistics to explain Chinese business decisions in the United States. My findings highlight the formative \u2013 and at times ironic \u2013 effects of U.S. immigration law and underline the dynamic interaction between exclusionary legal policies and the adaptive strategies of would-be immigrants.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-title\u0022\u003EHow Anti-Chinese Laws Encouraged Restaurants\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EThe vast majority of Chinese originally came to the United States from a small cluster of counties in Southern China, whose economic fortunes became tied to opportunities in North America after the 1849 Gold Rush in California. Young men went to the United States to work, sent money back to relatives in China, and periodically made temporary trips home. But this cycle of work and visits became much harder to execute after the United States passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. This draconian law barred the entry of Chinese laborers, yet also ended up stimulating the formation of Chinese businesses through a system of visa preferences. Owners of particular businesses could obtain \u201cmerchant status,\u201d which enabled them to enter the United States and sponsor relatives. After a 1915 court case granted these special immigration privileges to Chinese restaurant owners, entrepreneurial people in the United States and China opened restaurants as a way to bypass restrictions in U.S. immigration law. Flows of newcomers from China were diverted into the restaurant industry.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EThe number of Chinese restaurants in the United States exploded during the early twentieth-century. Between 1910 and 1920 the number of Chinese restaurants in New York City nearly quadrupled, and then more than doubled again over the next ten years. By 1920, New York restaurants generated $77.9 million in annual sales, rising to $154.2 million in 1930. Chinese laundries had once been the largest employers of Chinese workers, but by 1930 restaurants became more likely employers of Chinese workers \u2013 and retained that distinction thereafter.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003ESuch explosive growth in restaurants and restaurant employment happened even though it was far from easy for Chinese to gain merchant status. U.S. requirements for restaurant merchant status were rigid and arbitrary. The Immigration Bureau would assign this status only to the major investor in a \u201chigh grade\u201d restaurant, and these individuals must also have managed their restaurants full time for at least one calendar year, refraining during that time from any menial work as cashiers, waiters, or the like. Immigration agents assumed that Chinese applicants were prone to lie, so it was bureau policy to interview two white character witnesses to establish credibility for their claims. With few exceptions, the Immigration Bureau was willing to recognize only one merchant per restaurant.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EChinese adapted by molding their restaurants to fit the strict U.S. immigration guidelines. In the 1910s and 1920s, Chinese opened luxury restaurants called \u201c\u003Cem\u003Echop suey\u003C\/em\u003E palaces\u201d with start-up capital averaging $90,000 to $150,000 in 2015 currency. Because few Chinese people actually had that much money, Chinese pooled their resources and opened up restaurants as partnerships. Major investors rotated the managerial duties among themselves every year or year and half, creating an unbroken succession of people who could qualify for legal merchant status. In addition, the Chinese did business with white vendors who were willing to testify in support of immigration applications. With such techniques, the Chinese maximized the number of people who qualified for merchant status through involvement with each single restaurant.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-title\u0022\u003EThe Hard Life of Chinese Restaurant Workers\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EFor the workers, Chinese restaurants were complex sites of chain migration and familial obligation. The average Chinese restaurant in New York City employed five waiters and four cooks, who were related by kinship or friendship to the primary investors. Family bonds complicated relationships between employers and employees, rendering conflicts between them qualitatively different from the sorts of conflicts found in non-family-run restaurants. For the sake of family, Chinese restaurant employees were expected to work for low wages and perform physically demanding labor without complaint. Consequently, the average employee in such restaurants earned 1\/3 less wages than the national average for food service employees. This was true even though Chinese restaurant workers had to support kinfolk in China who depended on them to afford basic necessities such as clothing, food, and educational costs.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003ELetters sent back and forth across the Pacific Ocean helped Chinese persevere through such challenges. People in large, coastal cities like New York or San Francisco received bundles of mail from China, and relayed many letters to immigrants living further inland. Letters recounted news from home, and the messages Chinese workers sent back along with money explained their frustrations at having \u201cno free time,\u201d earning too little, and suffering poor health. Letters allowed Chinese to enforce social expectations, which mattered especially when people on one or both sides of the Pacific violated mutual agreements. The correspondence also maintained cultural traditions, like sending greetings and money to celebrate the Lunar New Year.\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-title\u0022\u003ESouthern China Also Benefitted\u003C\/span\u003E\u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cbr\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\u0022brief-paragraph\u0022\u003EBeyond gaining U.S. legal status in an exclusionary era, immigrants used profits from America\u2019s burgeoning Chinese restaurant industry to improve the quality of life for families in their former homeland. U.S.-based Chinese restaurants paid their investors a handsome annual dividend of 8 to 10% on average, along with annual salaries that equaled their investments. With this income, major investors could significantly improve the quality of life for relatives. In southern China, families with relatives abroad came to enjoy average monthly incomes three times larger than families without such relatives. What is more, Chinese entrepreneurs and workers in the United States could do even more than help individual families pay for necessities. Their remittances and patronage also supported larger undertakings \u2013 the most grandiose of which included modern, western-styled homes and community projects such as schools, railways, and hospitals. In many ways, therefore, the U.S. Chinese restaurant industry built fortunes in two vast nations.\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Cp class=\u0022brief-footer-comments brief-paragraph\u0022\u003E\n Research for this brief is drawn from the author\u2019s book manuscript in progress.\n \u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Ctable border=\u00220\u0022 align=\u0022left\u0022\u003E\n \u003Ctr\u003E\n \u003Ctd\u003E\n \u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/scholarsstrategynetwork.org\u0022\u003Ewww.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\u003C\/a\u003E\n \u003C\/td\u003E\n \u003C\/tr\u003E\n \u003C\/table\u003E\n \u003Ctable border=\u00220\u0022 align=\u0022right\u0022\u003E\n \u003Ctr\u003E\n \u003Ctd\u003E\n May 2015\n \u003C\/td\u003E\n \u003C\/tr\u003E\n \u003C\/table\u003E\n\u003C\/div\u003E \u003Cp\u003EThis article was originally published on \u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/\u0022\u003EScholars Strategy Network\u003C\/a\u003E. Read the \u003Ca href=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/brief\/untold-story-chinese-restaurants-america\u0022\u003Eoriginal article\u003C\/a\u003E.\u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003Cimg height=\u00221\u0022 width=\u00221\u0022 typeof=\u0022foaf:Image\u0022 src=\u0022http:\/\/www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org\/stealourcontent\/track.gif?nid=1308\u0022 alt=\u0022\u0022 \/\u003E \u003C\/textarea\u003E\n\n \u003Cp\u003ECopy the above code and paste it into your website or CMS to republish.\u003C\/p\u003E\n \u003C\/div\u003E\n"}]