A stall promoting Chinese culture in New York, Jan. 15. (Photo/CNS)
A new study has highlighted the alarming gap between the number of migrants heading out of China compared to those coming into the country, reports the Beijing-based Global Times, a tabloid under the auspices of Communist Party paper People's Daily.
On Wednesday, independent Beijing-based thinktank the Center for China and Globalization released its Annual Report on Chinese International Migration for 2014. The report found that nearly 10 million Chinese nationals have emigrated to other countries in the past 23 years, taking billions of dollars in assets as well as their technical skills along with them.
In 1990, there were 4.1 million Chinese emigrants living overseas, compared to just 376,000 foreign nationals living in China, resulting in a gap of 3.7 million. The number of Chinese emigrants has risen 128.6% since then to 9.3 million, widening the migration gap to 8.5 million.
The United States was identified as the top destination for Chinese nationals looking to relocate overseas, making China the second-largest source of immigrants to the US, though the number of emigrants to Europe is also on the rise. Many of the immigrants were found to be buying their way into foreign countries on immigrant investor visas. In 2012, 6,124 Chinese nationals moved to the United States as investment immigrants.
In 2012, the total number of Chinese nationals permanently moving to China's four major migration destinations — the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — reached 148,034. By contrast, the Chinese government only issued 1,202 new permanent residency certificates to foreign nationals, which is already a new record high. In the same year, the number of Chinese exchange students overseas reached 1.1 million, compared to just 326,0000 foreign exchange students in China.
The report found that Chinese emigrants were concentrated in the 35-55 age group of middle-class income earners. The main reasons identified for leaving China included education for their children and health concerns stemming from the country's crippling pollution problems.
China has also become America's second largest property buyer. In the 12 months ending March 2013, Chinese buyers spent US$12.3 billion on properties in the US, representing one-eighth of total domestic property acquisitions. Even more remarkably, 69% of those purchases were made in cash.
In an interview with the Global Times, the center's chief Wang Huiyao said Chinese nationals with around US$1 million in assets or more had transferred US$465 billion overseas in 2011. Chinese people migrating to foreign countries, however, is not necessarily always a bad thing as it can highlight the differences between China and other developed countries, provide space for reflection and introspection, he said.
Emigrants may take their funds and technical abilities with them, but they can also grow into a community of Chinese talents overseas, which could benefit China in the future, Wang said, adding that it is therefore essential for the government to exploit this trend, including by establishing a dedicated immigration department to minimize the impact of the gap between outgoing and incoming migrants.
Zhang Yiwu, an academic with Peking University, told Global Times that China's current migration trends will continue but that it is not the time to panic. In the past, Chinese people were willing to go to another country to wash dishes but they are doing it now because they have money, Zhang said, adding that countries with rapid economic development such as China and South Korea can naturally expect a lot of emigrants. A survey released this month by the Hurun Report, a monthly magazine best known for its China rich lists, found that 64% of surveyed millionaires had either already emigrated or had plans to do so.
Wang Huiyao 王輝耀
Zhang Yiwu 張頤武