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Weary of pollution, contaminated food and economic uncertainty, a third of Chinese multimillionaires worth at least $16 million (£10m) have “emigrated”, while half are considering packing their bags, a new report has claimed.The research, released this week by the influential Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, suggested Chinese entrepreneurs were heading overseas in an attempt to protect their assets, better educate their children and enjoy an improved quality of life.
The findings, published in China’s ‘Annual Report on Chinese International Migration 2012’, were widely publicised in the country’s state-media and came accompanied by stern warnings from senior academics about the potential consequences.
“Their departure will be a great loss for China,” Wang Huiyao, one of the report’s authors, told the Shanghai Daily, describing the exodus as “a great loss of talent.” Xinhua said continued emigration was likely “to bring losses to the country in terms of assets and talents and complicate the development of its substantial economy.”
Cui Yu, a 31-year-old mother interviewed by the China Daily, said: “I have discussed the plan with my husband and we have reached the conclusion that if we want to provide a better education and living environment with more career choices for our children, immigration is the best solution.” The report chimes with findings released last year by the Bank of China and Hurun, the Shanghai-based publisher of a Chinese ‘Rich List’, which claimed over half of China’s millionaires were considering or trying to emigrate. A previous study by China Merchants Bank found that 60 per cent of Chinese people worth at least $1.6 million were considering “investment immigration.”
Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun’s founder, said the findings were “a supersensitive topic at a political level” because of the implication that China’s well-connected elites might not have faith in the country’s political and economic future.
“I think it is a very significant political hot potato,” he said, listing education, pollution and food safety as some of the explanations behind the trend.
But Hoogewerf urged caution, pointing out that many of those “emigrating” were simply seeking permanent residence overseas rather than ditching their Chinese passports altogether.
“If the capital goes with them you are potentially at risk of losing 50 per cent of the country’s capital. But in practice it’s not really going to be like that. Most of the entrepreneurs I know are not going to be giving up on China. They grew up in China, they are proud of it and are not turning their backs on their country at this stage.”
Many were simply seeking “diversification of risk” in the “unlikely event there might be economic or political change,” he added. “If you were a British businessman you wouldn’t put all your eggs in the Sterling basket.”