Knowing China through Taiwan

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Wealth migration, a craze sweeping China's elite

  • Staff Reporter
  • 2012-11-15
  • 09:21 (GMT+8)
A investment and migration fair in Beijing attracted many visitors in September. (Photo/Xinhua)

A investment and migration fair in Beijing attracted many visitors in September. (Photo/Xinhua)

As the Chinese economy has boomed in recent years, nearly two-thirds of country's wealthy elite say they want to emigrate, particularly to Western countries; a phenomenon which has birthed a new class of so-called "naked businesspeople," our Chinese-language sister paper Want Daily reports.

The term describes wealthy Chinese who remain in mainland China, while relocating their spouses, children, and financial holdings aboard via investment and emigration.

The Bank of China together with the Hurun Research Institute released last year released the Private Banking White Paper 2011 which surveyed 980 individuals with a worth in excess of 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million) in 18 major cities across the country. More than 60% of those polled said they plan to settle in a foreign country or had already applied to emigrate to another country. Among the especially wealthy in China's eastern and southeastern regions, more than 70% of respondents said they plan to leave the country.

To service (and profit from) this emigration craze, the number of migration agents in China has exploded in recent years. Figures from the Ministry of Public Security reveal the number of registered emigration agents in the country surged to 730 last year from 485 in 2006.

A report from Reuters suggested this new breed of hopeful Chinese emigrants share three characteristics. They are, in the main, private businesspeople rather than intellectuals, scientists or engineers as was previously the case. Secondly, most of the money they make in China is moved abroad, legally or otherwise. Thirdly, they usually leave children and spouses in their new country once immigration is successful, and return to China alone to continue earning money and sending it abroad.

The practice has drawn strong criticism in China with many charging that these people reap great fortunes off the back of preferential government policies but spend their money overseas instead of contributing to China's economy and society. Many liken it to tunneling out China's wealth.

For their part, many wealthy Chinese who have chosen this path say it's unfair to denounce the practice out of hand. Wang Ming, a businessman in China's southern Zhejiang province, said so-called notorious "naked officials" --government officials who funnel (almost always) ill-gotten wealth out of China along with family-- are plentiful and set a bad example for people who made their money in business.

Who's Who

  • Zhai Jun (翟雋)

    Zhai Jun (翟雋)

    Zhai Jun is China's deputy minister of foreign affairs. A native of Hebei province, he was born in 1954 and holds a bachelor's degress in British ...