By Song Fuli (宋馥李)
Economic Observer Online
Nov. 3, 2011
Translated By Zhu Na
Original article: [Chinese]
A recent spate of media reports based on a research paper produced by the Bank of China and Hurun Report, which included survey data revealing that half of the Chinese millionaires polled had considered emigration, and that 14 percent had already emigrated or were in the process of doing so, has once again raised the vexed issue of whether a mass migration of China's wealthiest citizens is underway.
According to the report, the most popular destinations are the U.S., Canada and Australia, with many of those choosing to leave motivated by the desire to find better schools and universities for their children. In 2010, almost 68,000 Chinese people who were born in China became permanent legal residents of the U.S.
Why are so many of China's wealthy choosing to emigrate?
The EO talked to Tsinghua University's Cai Jiming (蔡继明), who is also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. We've shortened his answers.
EO: What do you think about the fact that most of the wealthy Chinese who decide to emigrate say they are driven by concern for their children’s education?
Cai Jiming: I think it is understandable to emigrate for the sake of a child’s education. There are two situations: one regards tertiary education, with parents seeking to avoid the fierce competition for places at domestic universities […] the other is to provide children a western education from the earliest age. In both cases, we need to seriously rethink what has happened to our education system.
Another important reason for this emigration trend is that many people are concerned about the security of their property.
EO: What do you think about this explanation?
CJM: This is a complicated question. Chinese people who are concerned about their private property should make a comprehensive analysis of our history and culture. In theory, our constitution and Property Law protect citizens’ private property, and we are not behind the U.S. or other countries in this respect. But have we really established a sense that “private property is sacred and inviolable”? In reality, we have always lacked protection for private property. In recent years, we’ve seen the illegal expropriation of land, the violent demolition of people’s houses and other phenomenon which show that these principles aren’t yet widely respected. Work still needs to be done to guarantee citizens’ private property.
EO: How will this emigration wave harm China? And will it cause the collapse of our economy?
CJM: It is not easy to estimate, but it definitely won’t make our economy collapse. However, a large number of wealthy people are moving overseas, of course, and it will have a negative impact on the development of China’s economy and society. One aspect is the loss of wealth; another aspect is the loss of all kinds of talented people.
EO: Some people think policies should be implemented to control emigration. What’s your opinion?
CJM: We can’t limit emigration […] freedom of movement is a basic human right.