With the economic climate looking grim, recent graduates in Europe and North America could be forgiven for wondering if they should consider China for employment, as one of few places where fortunes still might be made.
So it is something of a paradox that some of the wealthiest Chinese continue to dream of travelling in the opposite direction – and leave the country.
A survey of 980 of the country’s high-net-worth individuals co-published by the Hurun Report and the Bank of China late last month showed that 60% were either emigrating or considering doing so.
The report backs up another survey by consultancy Bain earlier this year which also found that over half of its respondents (also wealthy Chinese) were thinking of moving to another country.
More than 50% said they were moving for their childrens’ education – but a desire for better medical treatment, and concerns about pollution were also key concerns.
The more recent report – which interviewed people with over Rmb10 million in assets in 18 cities across China – found the most popular destination was the US (42%), followed by Canada (37%), Singapore (14%) and Europe (11%).
The average respondent was 42 years-old and worth over Rmb60 million, with 14% of those questioned having already emigrated or begun the process to leave, while the other 46% were considering it.
In recent years countries such as the US and Canada have created a new class of investment visa which grants foreign nationals the right to residence, and eventually citizenship if they are willing to invest upwards of $500,000 in schemes that create jobs.
Earlier this week US Senators Charles Schumer (Democrat) and Mike Lee (Republican) introduced a bill that would also offer residency to foreigners who are willing to invest $500,000 in real estate.
News of the report and the new bill in the US have been widely discussed by the Chinese media and netizens.
The Beijing Daily poured cold water on the findings calling them “unscientific” while urging readers “not to follow the trend”.
But netizens were more supportive of the departing elite, with many saying that they too would leave given the option.
“I would emigrate for sure if I had the money,” Danielle 1989 posted on her weibo account. “It’s not that I don’t love my country, it’s that the country doesn’t love us.”
Others remembered Deng Xiaoping’s promise that ‘the people who get rich first will help those who lag behind’.
“The emigration of rich people proves once and for all that the theory is a lie,” netizen Yinziduo wrote on his weibo. But another quipped that the rich leaving could be a good thing. “At least that way we solve the problem of China’s huge wealth disparity,” one wag suggested.
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