The effects of group heterogeneity on political engagement among Chinese migrants in Australia

Stream: Panel 55 - Comparative Politics: Participation and Engagement 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm


It is generally argued that social capital—networks of associations, trust, and norms of reciprocity—enables people to achieve goals that would not have been possible in its absence (Coleman 1988, 1990; Ostrom 1994). Similarly, Verba et al (1995) contended that political participation is largely shaped by citizens’ involvement in non-political institutions such as work, voluntary organisations, and church.2 VSB argue that certain resources—especially time, money, and civic skills—are necessary for political participation. Most crucial is the acquisition of civic skills which, according to the theory, takes place in the non-political institutions outlined above. While these two approaches to explaining political participation do offer a number of valid points, they fall short in several key aspects. This paper argues that both social capital theory and Verba et al’s model disregard the importance of psychological resources of participants in voluntary organizations. The psychological resources include the motives of participants’ involvement in voluntary organizations and the internal mobilisation of voluntary organizations to participants. This research will seek to add to the body of literature in several ways. First, I will be looking at Chinese migrants, in that little research has concentrated on this important ethnic group in Australia. Secondly, this paper will extend the extant literature by using a unique data from in-depth interviews and internet survey. Thirdly, on the theoretical side, this paper highlights the roles of self-motivation of participants between social capital and political participation.


Liang Jiang (Presenter), University of Technology Sydney
Liang Jiang is a PhD candidate at University of Technology Sydney, Australia. His research interests include political behaviour, election campaign, and political integration of migrants.