Myanmar Jewellers in China

China re-opened border in a final farewell to its strict zero-COVID policy on the 8th of January, 2023. But in the first few weeks of January, the Myanmar side of the border and the Myanmar immigration authorities refused to open the border for fear of COVID surge. This has continued to affect the livelihood of Myanmar jewellers who used to travel to China to do business.

In this episode, Julie Yu-Wen Chen (University of Helsinki) talks to Juliet Zhu from the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia at Mahidol University in Thailand. Juliet Zhu is currently a postdoctoral researcher. She has been conducting research on Myanmar jewellers since her doctoral study at the same university. As Juliet illuminates, since the late 1980s, generations of Myanmar jewellers have settled down in the Chinese border cities next to northern Myanmar. Currently, most of them are based in Dehong Prefecture, a border prefecture in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province. In the past few years, they have faced increasingly precarious economic and social conditions due to China’s anti-corruption campaign, the Belt and Road Initiative and the rise of live-streaming trade in the transnational jewellery business. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Myanmar immigrants have left China. Listeners can read Zhu’s 2021 co-authored paper to learn more about her study and find a map of her studied area in this paper.

Julie Yu-Wen Chen is Professor of Chinese Studies at the Department of Cultures at the University of Helsinki (Finland). Dr. Chen serves as one of the editors of the Journal of Chinese Political Science (Springer, SSCI). Formerly, she was chair of Nordic Association of China Studies (NACS) and Editor-in-Chief of Asian Ethnicity (Taylor & Francis). You can find her on University of Helsinki Chinese Studies’ websiteYoutube and Facebook, and her personal Twitter.

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