Introduction to "Governing Marriage Migrations: Perspectives from Mainland China and Taiwan"

Elena Barabantseva, University of Manchester
Biao Xiang, University of Oxford
Antonia Chao, Tunghai University
Ethnic festival and market in Lộc Bình. Photo by E. Barabantseva.
Abstract


Cross-border migration for the purpose of marriage is on the rise, and at present it constitutes one of the most common forms of long-term international mobility in East Asia. This special issue of Cross-Currents analyzes marriage migration in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan as a subject of governance. The articles included here demonstrate that marriage migration has attracted considerable policy attention and public anxiety not because it is about “marriage” or “migration” per se, but because it is perceived to be inseparable from a wide range of other issues, such as sexual morality, family norms, national identity, and border security. In particular, the long-lasting social relationships marriage migration creates and the role of marriage migrants (the vast majority of whom are women) in rearing the next generation of the state’s sovereign subjects tie marriage migration to state security concerns. Popular anxieties about marriage migration are often based on projections into the future rather than observations about the present reality. On one hand, the fact that marriage migration is deeply embedded in myriad social institutions and relations that cannot be dealt with in isolation causes a projection-based mode of governance; on the other hand, it renders transnational marriage particularly hard to govern, which further exacerbates anxiety. But this should not be seen as a failure in public policy. The articles in this special issue argue that such projections, imaginations, and self-perpetuating anxieties are important parts of how nationhood is constructed in the current era. As such, marriage migration as a subject of governance provides us with a special angle to examine how politics works in subtle and sometimes invisible ways on local, national, and transnational levels.