China became the biggest worldwide contributor of emigrants in 2007. According to the official Chinese media, 65,000 Chinese last year secured immigration or permanent resident status in the United States, 25,000 in Canada and 15,000 in Australia. Chinese are outnumbered by only Mexicans as the largest ethnic group who acquired green cards in the United States in 2009. Particularly in the area of investment-related immigration (see below) to major Western countries, Chinese are tipped to become the largest cohort within the next few years.
Despite the downturn in Western economies in the wake of the financial crisis, more Chinese students are expected to stay abroad after getting degrees and professional qualifications. Among the 270,000 Chinese who are going to foreign universities as self-paying students this year, only around 25% are projected to return to China upon graduation.
Then there are middle-class and affluent Chinese who take advantage of liberalized travel regulations to give birth to children in the United States and other Western countries. It is little wonder that, according to the Overseas Affairs Office of the State Council, there are more than 45 million huaqiao, or “overseas Chinese”, worldwide.