A person wears a mask while riding a bicycle on the street in Beijing, Jan. 16. (Photo/CNS)
Worsening environmental conditions have become a major cause for migration among China's middle and upper classes over the past year, according to a report jointly released by the Center for China and Globalization and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The situation is most evident in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen which have been plagued with serious smog, with the Yangtze River Delta, northeastern China and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in particular experiencing the worst air quality in 2013.
As a result, many wealthy residents in these cities have chosen to move away from the pollution to seek a better place to live, whether abroad to the United States, the United Kingdom or Canada, or other parts of China, according to the Beijing-based Economic Observer.
The change in lifestyle also reflects issues that have emerged during the development of urban areas, where people feel pressured by pollution, traffic woes and rising living costs.
These environmental migrants mostly belong to the middle classes, including businesspeople, artists, journalists or bar owners in cities and they have chosen to move south to places such as Dali in Yunnan province, Sanya on the southern island province of Hainan and Zhuhai in Guangdong because they can no longer stand the crowded living and bad air quality in big cities.
Their migration has also had a positive influence on smaller local economies and has brought about structural changes in society.