McDonaldization & the Floating Population - Research Projects Supported by the Center for Chinese Studies
Graduate Student Researchers of the Center for Chinese Studies Assist in Important Research Projects
Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Each year, the Center for Chinese Studies awards a number of research assistantships to outstanding graduate students. These awards contribute simultaneously to two crucial objectives of the center: to support UCLA’s graduate students in Chinese studies, and to support the faculty in their research. The awards also contribute to a third objective: student training. Care is taken in teaming up the graduate student researchers and their faculty supervisors so that the students actually work in their own discipline, and ideally on topics of direct relevant to their program of study.
This academic year (2002-03), the center has appointed six graduate student researchers, in anthropology, history, political science, and sociology. Below, two of the center’s graduate student researchers report on the projects on which they are working.
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Xiaolei Wu (Department of Anthropology)
Assisting Professor Yunxian Yan
Project: “Transforming Americana: The McDonald's Phenomenon and Cultural Globalization in Beijing"
As a research assistant for Professor Yunxiang Yan of the Anthropology Department, my main responsibility is to conduct library research for his three-year research project "Transforming Americana: The McDonald's Phenomenon and Cultural Globalization in Beijing." In this project, the success of McDonald’s in Beijing is being investigated to reveal the simultaneous, complementary, and interpenetrative processes of globalization and localization. More specifically, by studying the McDonald’s phenomenon in Beijing, we are examining the local transformation of American popular culture, the social-cultural consequences of globalization, including its possible link to the rise of nationalism, and the role of the Chinese state in the process of globalization.
The project starts with two basic inquires. First, how have Beijing residents perceived, received, appropriated, and transformed McDonald’s products and the American popular culture associated with it? Second, what social and cultural impact has McDonald’s had on the everyday life of these people and on their views regarding America in particular and globalization in general? The ultimate objective of the project is to address a theoretical question currently under debate among students of cultural globalization: Does the sweeping diffusion of Western (mostly American) cultural products and values to the rest of the world lead to the creation of a global culture, erode nationalist ideology and sentiment, and eventually undermine the authority of the nation-state in the receiving countries? These questions will be answered through the testing of the localization hypothesis, the cultural awareness hypothesis, the multi-ownership hypothesis, and the managed globalization hypothesis.
My particular role is to research multidisciplinary literature on fast food culture, globalization, and consumption and articles from popular Chinese magazines on local people's attitude toward imported, Western culture.
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Professor Yan’s first publication on McDonald’s in Beijing was a chapter in the book Golden Arches East.
“McDonald’s in Beijing: the Localization of Americana.” In Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia. J. L. Watson (ed.) Stanford: Stanford University Press. Pp. 39-76.
An excerpt from Professor Yan's article "Mcdonald's in Beijing" is available at
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Yi Pan (Department of Sociology)
Assisting Professor Donald Treiman
Project: “A Pilot Study for a National Survey of Migration in China”
This project is preparation for a national probability sample survey focused on internal migration in China. It is principally directed by Professor Donald J. Treiman (Sociology) and co-directed by Professor William M. Mason (Sociology). The purposes of this pilot project are to test the feasibility of alternative sampling, study design, and questionnaire construction strategies.
Since 1955, the Chinese government has strictly controlled rural-to-urban migration and, indirectly, the distribution of central components of social status through the use of a household registration (hukou) system. This complex system classifies members of every household according to (1) status -- either agricultural or nonagricultural -- and (2) “place,” where place refers both to geographic location and to a work-defining entity such as a “work unit” or enterprise. The system restricts access to housing, medical care, education, and types of jobs to those registered in each locality and by different hukou status. This system has always restricted geographic mobility by requiring formal approval of requests to change registration place as a condition for moving, and by controlling changes in hukou status. With the economic reformed initiated in the 1980s, increasing numbers of people became geographically mobile, and in particular vast numbers flowed from rural to urban areas. Nevertheless, the rights and privileges associated with registration status are still in effect and this has created a “floating population” of individuals registered in one place but living in another, with restricted access to health care, housing, and education for their children.
Some estimates suggest that current migrants account for as much as one-fourth of an estimated total adult urban population of 240 million. To understand Chinese internal migration in its own context and on its own terms, the national study that this project seeks to pilot will provide data to address the following kinds of questions. How do migrants differ from those left behind, in both social and personality characteristics? What are the financial and social implications for sending communities? What are the consequences for migrants, in terms of health and well-being? What are the consequences for receiving communities, in terms of labor supply and pressure on urban infrastructure? What are the processes by which migration occurs? What is the incidence and prevalence of migration in China today? How have migration rates both responded to and influenced changes in policies regarding population movement, including the organization of the household registration system and reduction in the extent of urban privilege?
These research questions can be answered via a large-scale national sample survey in which complete migration histories and other social and demographic information are solicited or, even better, a panel study of the national population. Whether a national sample survey and a panel study are feasible hinges on the outcome of the pilot study this project is working on. To assess the feasibility of carrying out a national mobility survey, the pilot study will conduct a survey of approximately 1,550 people. The main tasks of the pilot survey are to explore sampling design questions about the sample coverage and the places to be sampled in the national survey, the feasibility of locating and interviewing migrants, and questionnaire design questions about collecting migration histories and migrant health data.