The Making of a Modern Self: Vietnamese Women Experiencing Transnational Mobility at the China–Vietnam Border

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

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The Making of a Modern Self: Vietnamese Women Experiencing Transnational Mobility at the China–Vietnam Border


  • Pengli Huang College of Ethnology and Sociology, Guangxi University for Nationalities, China / Department of Social Work, Nanning Normal University, China


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Abstract:  China–Vietnam marriages attract increasing public attention in China and trigger many discussions on the phenomenon of ‘Vietnamese brides.’ The discussions are often linked to the rapid modernization of the border areas since the 1990s, caused by the re-opening of the border, the prosperity of the transnational economy and the increase of cross-border mobility between the two countries. Guided by the qualitative research paradigm, 30 Vietnamese women in cross-border intimate relationships with Chinese men were interviewed to examine their motivation and their experience of transnational mobility at the China–Vietnam border. By challenging the popular image of Vietnamese women as pitiable and ignorant country bumpkins in public discourse, this study acknowledges that these women, like other modern women, have the capacity to imagine and desire, to make decisions and to act, caring a lot about self-development and expression. Comparably, these women may not be able to enjoy the relatively rich resources and capital like the economic elites, but they have strategically manipulated multifaceted and contradictory realities at the specific context of the China–Vietnam border to better their economic circumstances, and to reshape their personal, familial, and social relationships.

Keywords:  borderland; cross-border intimacy; emancipation; migration; Vietnamese brides; women

Published:   28 April 2020


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v8i2.2652


© Pengli Huang. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.