Chinese communities in Italy

In Italy, the relationship between Italian and Chinese communities is fraught. As a result of the relatively recent influx of Chinese immigrants, social cohesion is low in comparison with other European nations.

A short history

The first large wave of migration to Italy occurred during the 1990s and early 2000s, when a severe industrial crisis in the north-eastern China forced many inhabitants to move westwards. On reaching Italy, many settled in Lombardy and Piedmont, where more than half currently reside. Of an approximate total of 300,000 legal Chinese residents, over a quarter are peculiarly located between the Tuscan cities of Florence and Prato.

For the most part, these residents are involved in the commercial and restaurant industries. One will find Chinese-run corner stores or take-away joints in almost every town across the peninsula. Local inhabitants have grown accustomed to these changes, and, on the whole, the two communities keep to themselves, never mingling except for a money transaction.

The case of Prato

Feelings of resentment and suspicion on the part of the locals are largely due to Chinese dominance over the textile industry. Insular and tightly-knit microeconomies have developed within the walls of many Italian cities. This phenomenon is especially severe in the township of Prato, which was once famed for its cloth exports. Here lies the largest proportion of Chinese-run businesses than in any other city on the continent.

The chief reason for their success is their ability to exploit privileged import channels linked directly to mainland China. The undermining of local competition, along with the creation of an underworld of prostitution and human trafficking, has done much to coarsen the mood of the Pratesi toward their new neighbours.

Feelings of enmity toward the Chinese community are expected to worsen in the coming years following the calamitous economic crisis which Italy is currently suffering.

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