Ever since Deng Xiaoping opened Chinese doors to the world decades ago, the US has forged an important, if sometimes politically contentious, business relationship with China.
American companies, of course, have surged to China in waves to take advantage of lower operating costs there. Today, Wal-Mart (WMT) has over 350 stores in China, while Yum! Brands (YUM) opened 656 restaurants just in 2011 alone. Apple(AAPL) products, meanwhile as we have been made aware by the Foxconn controversy, are made largely by hand there
“Working together, the United States and China have a tremendous opportunity to build stronger economies and improve the lives of people around the world,” was how Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola (KO) and head of the US-China Business Council, put it to Forbes.
This foreign investment-fuelled boom of the Chinese economy in the past three decades has created a large, new class of mobile Chinese millionaires and billionaires, who, as Jeremy Page of the Wall Street Journal documents, are now seriously considering migration. A November 2011 survey by the Bank of China and Hurun, a company that tracks the country’s wealthy class, some 60% of Chinese with fortunes of at least $1.6 million have either considered immigration or are actively engaged in the process.
They are in search of things money can’t buy in China: Cleaner air, safer food, better education for their children. Some also express concern about government corruption and the safety of their assets.
One of their top destinations? The US. Under the ‘investor immigration’ program, entrepreneurs can apply for a US EB5 visa. A maximum of 10,000 are granted each year to people who invest at least $1 million and create 10 jobs in America, or who put in $500,000 in an underdeveloped or high-unemployment area. Last year, the US received 2,969 EB5 immigration applications from China, which was a massive jump from the 787 received a mere two years before and the 270 four years ago
One Chinese millionaire the Journal spoke to, Shi Kang, a novelist with a net worth of at least $1.6 million, liked the US for its seemingly limitless amount of wide, open space.
“As soon as you leave the city, the U.S. is really a big garden,” said Shi, who’s evidently not a fan of urban spaces, calling New York a “thrash city” when he first landed there. “It’s like a symphony: When Chinese people listen to these idyllic pastoral tunes, they can’t picture it, because China just doesn’t have these things.”
Others cite the overreaching power of the government as a reason to leave. Leo Li, another Chinese national hoping to leave his homeland for greener pastures, explained his worry to NPR through a joke:
A boss is questioning a Chinese employee on why he wants to move overseas. The boss asks if he is satisfied with the pay, the work and the politicians in China. The man answers “yes.” Then the boss asks why the man is still moving out.
“‘Because in other countries, I can say I’m not satisfied.'” Li says.
Of course, there’s a big difference between thinking of immigration and actually doing so, and the number of immigrants is probably statistically slight compared to the one million and counting millionaires in China. Still, if rich Chinese immigrants continue to head here in large numbers and help generate jobs, that will hopefully help cool the anti-China rhetoric that many politicians engage in.
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