Wealthy Chinese ‘voting with their feet’ When Facing Increasing Social Problems and Conflicts

BEIJING: A debate is raging in China about a growing tendency among well-to-do citizens to emigrate in search of better education for their children, or more judicial security.

Nearly half of Chinese millionaires are considering moving abroad, according to a poll by Shanghai’s Hurun Institute, which publishes an annual list of the richest people in the country. About 14 percent of very wealthy Chinese have taken or are taking dual citizenship, the survey showed.

Citizens turning their backs on their homeland is a hotly discussed topic.

But those with the means to do so are simply “voting with their feet”, Internet columnist Zhang Yan said.

Writing on the website Zhongguo Wang, she says she can understand emigration as a “rational choice” in the face of increasing problems and social conflicts.

The new emigrants are looking for more than economic well-being, analysts say.

“A sense of security, trust in the future of society, a good environment, sufficient protection of property, an independent and fair judiciary, and respect for the development of entrepreneurs and private business” are among the needs pushing the wealthy to move abroad, according to Zhang Yan.

“Ordinary people have no feeling of security. Their conflicts and dissatisfaction are even greater than those of the rich, but simple people generally do not have the opportunity to emigrate,” she said.

The poll interviewed 980 Chinese worth more than 10 million yuan (US$1.57 million). There are almost one million euro-millionaires in China today, and the number is rising.

Economic uncertainty

A third of the participants already owned property abroad, primarily real estate. Almost 30 percent of those who had not yet invested in a foreign country planned to do so in the next few years.

One in three invested abroad in order to be able to obtain a foreign passport more easily, as a kind of “insurance policy”.

Forty-six percent said they were considering emigration.

Better education opportunities were named as the main reason for emigrating. Wealthy Chinese were also concerned about the protection of their property at a time of political and economic uncertainty.

“The great uncertainty about how safe private property is hangs like a dark cloud over their heads,” economic commentator Ye Tan wrote in the Nanfang Dushibao newspaper.

Chinese millionaires feel drawn to the United States and Canada, but also to Singapore and Europe.

“The search for higher quality of life, better education, a sense of security for one’s wealth are clearly the most important reasons,” commentator Han Shinan wrote in the daily Qilu Wanbao.

Other factors include air pollution in Chinese cities – now reaching dramatic proportions in Beijing – daily traffic chaos, toxins in the water, and food scandals.

“Even if the rich have a lot of money, they still share the air, the water, the food security, or the judiciary with poor people,” analyst Zhu Naijuan wrote in the 21st Century Business Herald.

-dpa, via Free Malaysia Today