China Exchange

The Chinese in Britain is one of the fastest growing communities. It is estimated the total number of Chinese has reached 500,000 by 2015. Approximately two-thirds of Chinese in Britain were born outside UK, with the majority coming from Hong Kong, China and Southeast Asia. The past two decades has witnessed a steady rise in the number of people from mainland China, including professionals, skilled workers, investors and young people who come to study in UK’s schools and universities. There is an urgent need to document and conceptualize this important demographic and cultural shift, not only for a better understanding of the new development of Chinese communities in the UK but also for the benefit of Britain whose future is increasingly built upon its understanding of and relations with the rest of the world including China.

This conference is aimed at addressing this gap by bringing together researchers, Chinese language teachers, community leaders and policy makers to identify and examine the changing linguistic and cultural landscape of the Chinese in Britain. It is hosted by HOMELandS (Hub on Migration, Exiles, Languages and Spaces) in collaboration with the Contemporary China Centre of University of Westminster, and funded by Language Acts and World Making Small Grant Scheme, AHRC Open World Research Initiative (OWRI).

Conference organiser

Cangbai Wang, University of Westminster.

Keynote speakers

  • Caroline Knowles, Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Li Wei, Professor and Chair of Applied Linguistics and Director of the Centre for Applied Linguistics, University College London

With contributions from:

Freya Aitken-Turff, Eona Bell, Harriet Evans,Jing Huang, Paul Kendall, Denise Kwan,Jackie Jia Lou, Xiao Ma, How Wee Ng, Giulio Verdini, Natalie Vujasin, Gerda Wielander, Anne Witchard, Maggie Hoi Lam Wong, Yan Wu, Lini Xiao, Chen Yang, Diana Yeh, Vanessa Yim.


Pavilion,  University of Westminster 115 New Cavendish Street, London W1W 6UW

Conference programme 

9.30: Arrival and tea/coffee

10-10.05am: Welcome 
Cangbai Wang (Conference organiser, University of Westminster) 

10.05-10.15am: Opening address 
Gerda Wielander (Professor of Chinese and Deputy Head of College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Westminster) 

10.15-11.15am: Keynote speech 1 

  • Chinese London: Conceptualising ethnicities and urban space in a mobile world: 
    Caroline Knowles (Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London) 

11.15am-12.15pm: Keynote speech 2 

  • Multilingualism in the Chinese community in Britain: Diversities from within: 
    Li Wei (Professor and Chair of Applied Linguistics and Director of the Centre for Applied Linguistics, University College London) 

12:15-1.15pm: Lunch break 

1.15-2.15pm: Session 1: Negotiating and Articulating Chineseness in a changing Britain 

Chair: Anne Witchard (University of Westminster) 

  • Becoming British East Asian: Anti-racism, Chineseness and the crafting of new political communities of protest and belonging: 
    Diana Yeh (City University of London) 
  • The talking of objects: migratory experiences and subjectivities of British Chinese women in contemporary Britain: 
    Denise Kwan (University of Westminster) 
  • The online construction and representation of cultural identity-A study of British Chinese community on YouTube: 
    Chen Yang (University of Westminster) 

2.15-1.15pm: Session 2: Speaking Chinese in multilingual London 

Chair: Paul Kendall (University of Westminster) 

  • Walking in two Chinatowns: Spatial narrations of urban change: 
    Jackie Jia Lou (Birkbeck, University of London) 
  • An ethnographic study on the family language choice of Cantonese-speaking mothers in multilingual London: 
    Maggie Hoi Lam Wong (King College London) 
  • Heritage language learners on the move: The transnational process of managing and learning Chinese in a Mandarin complementary school: 
    Lini Xiao (University of Cambridge) 

3-3.30pm: Tea/coffee break 

3.30-3.30pm: Session 3: British Chinese as a Transnational Subject 

Chair: How Wee Ng (University of Westminster) 

  • One Chinese dream, many varied interpretations: How British Chinese community perceives the rise of China: 
    Yan Wu, Richard Thomas and Yakun Yu (University of Swansea) 
  • Redefining the ‘ethnic enclave’: Political economy and ethnic identities in the British Chinese diaspora:
    Jing Huang (University of Bath) 
  • Below the Lion Rock – Hong Kong Chinese identities and hospitality in post-devolution Scotland:
    Eona Bell (University of Cambridge) 

4.30-5.30pm: Session 4: Theorising and doing British Chinese heritage 

Chair: Giulio Verdini (University of Westminster) 

  • Sharing Chinatown Stories: a practical overview of projects based in London’s Chinatown to capture, curate and celebrate stories of this iconic part of the capital: 
    Freya Aitken-Turff and Xiao Ma (China Exchange) 
  • Exploring the multiple meanings and spaces of Manchester’s Chinatown: 
    Natalie Vujasin (University of Sheffield) 
  • Soul Relics Museum: identity, culture and mental wellbeing of the Chinese in London: 
    Vanessa Yim (University of Oxford) 

5.30-6pm: Conclusion 

Cangbai Wang and Harriet Evans (University of Westminster)

6-7pm: Reception