Public Ph.D defense of Lingyu Xu: Changing China's immigration policy: Which factors have driven China's development of a more comprehensive policy approach

Monday 28 June 2021, 14:00 to 16:00

The public defense of Lingyu Xu will take place on Monday, 28 June 2021 at 14h00, in an hybrid format.


Most scholars consider China as a country where people migrate from. Contrary to this conventional view, this thesis discusses the policy of China as a country of immigration. It tries to find answers to the question as to why China’s immigration policy has changed from a very restrictive policy to a more open (albeit still highly selective) and flexible one. From a theoretical angle, it looks at the migration theories that have been applied in the West (neo-institutionalism, political economy and constructivism) and explores whether these theories are also applicable for the case of China. Three different migrant groups are scrutinized: high-level talents, ordinary foreigners and irregular migrants.

The thesis uses the method of a structured and focused comparison and builds upon three case studies: (1) foreign talent policies in Beijing, (2) ordinary foreigner policies in Yiwu and (3) irregular immigration policies in Guangzhou. These cases highlight the factors driving policy changes vis-à-vis these types of migration in China.

This PhD thesis gives an extensive overview of China’s immigration policies over the past four decades, focusing initially on Exit & Entry only, and then gradually dealing with foreigners’ integration. One group of migrants – foreign talents – has been treated in a preferential way from the beginning up until now. The research reveals that institutional factors are mainly responsible for this change. Processes of globalization, reformed institutional structures, the rise of (non-governmental) social groups, and court actions have also been very important in terms of understanding as to why these changes have taken place. Wider societal norms help better understand the crucial moments of change.

This thesis shows that migration theories tested in liberal Western democracies may still prove to be of relevance in a ‘non-Western’ context such as China, provided they are adapted and thoroughly tested.

Please click here to register for the (digital) defense.


14:00 Welcome by Chair, Prof. Trisha Meyer – Brussels School of Governance, VUB

14:05-14:25 Ph.D presentation

14:25 – 15:10 Ph.D defense by Lingyu Xu

Jury questions from:

  • Prof. Eric Florence - Université de Liège
  • Prof. Stefanie Weil - Antwerp Management School & University of Antwerp
  • Prof. Kristin Henrard – Brussels School of Governance, VUB

15:10- 15:20 Q&A with audience

15:20 – 15:35 Deliberation

15:35 – 15:45 Conferment of degree

15:45 - 15:50 Speeches by Prof. Florian Trauner (supervisor) & Prof. Ilke Adam (co-supervisor) – Brussels School of Governance, VUB

15:50 – 16:00 Speech by Lingyu Xu

16:00 Closing