A growing trend amongst members of China’s upper class is the aspiration to move abroad. An article in the Wall Street Journal tells the story of a few affluent might-be migrants and their reasons for considering a new life in the U.S. or Canada. The article also explains how officials in Beijing appear to be nervous about an “elite exodus”:
In fiscal 2011, the U.S. received 2,969 applications (each of which can cover several family members) from China for EB5 immigration, compared with just 787 two years earlier, according to the U.S. immigration agency. Chinese applications accounted for 78% of the global total in 2011.
Canada received 2,567 Chinese applications for a similar program in 2011, up from just 383 in 2009, according to its immigration authorities. Demand has been so strong—particularly from China—that Canada imposed a cap of 700 applications per year, starting July 1, 2011. That quota was filled within a week, with 697 of 700 applications from China.
[…]China’s officialdom has taken notice. “Without doubt, the skyrocketing living costs, worsening environment, poor social welfare and growing tax burden in China are partly responsible for this loss,” wrote Zhang Monan, an economic researcher with the official State Information Centre, in a recent commentary in the state-run China Daily.
“It is natural for people to choose a place to live where they think they will enjoy the best quality of life,” she wrote. “Only by making the country more attractive to its talent can China keep them and their wealth from leaving.”
Party leaders have begun pledging to focus more on quality-of-life issues. Last year, for instance, they promised to pay more attention to improving public services and solving environmental issues in the current five-year plan that runs until 2015.
An article in China Daily tells a tale from the other side of the looking glass – that of a Chinese national who, after finding wealth abroad, decided to come back home:
Liu, a 42-year-old villager from Xinxian county, worked in a dye factory in Daegu from 2001 to 2005. During that time he earned more than 600,000 yuan ($95,000), a big sum compared with the average income in the mountainous region he came from.
“It made me feel fulfilled to make so much money,” Liu told China Daily.
[…]Life overseas proved to be difficult for Liu at first, when he had little knowledge about Korean social habits.
[…]Liu said he will never work abroad again since he already has a career in his hometown and there is no need for him to experience the hardship of working overseas any more.
Author Shi Kang, one of the millionaires interviewed for the Wall Street Journal piece, blogs about his experiences traveling in the U.S. on his Sina page (zh). For more information about China’s wealthy, see the Hurun Report. Also see The American Dream of the Chinese Rich via CDT.