Why are wealthy Chinese fleeing China

“Escape of the brains”: A puzzling trend is causing China's rulers increasing concern

It may seem surprising at first glance. China is on the way to becoming a world power: the economy is booming, wages are rising, prosperity is growing. Even so, the well-educated and wealthy are leaving the country in droves. In the meantime, around 5.2 million Chinese have permanently settled abroad, reports the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" and refers to state data. Most of the emigrants live in the country of their global competitor USA, of all places. Why?

To put it into perspective: In a country with more than 1.3 billion inhabitants, five million emigrants make up only a fraction. Nevertheless, the departure of this group is likely to be particularly painful for Beijing. It is not the simple construction workers from the hinterland who are drawn into the expanse, but above all well-educated and wealthy Chinese. Many of them take their money with them. The trend has long alarmed Beijing's state-affiliated media. They fear a "brain drain", an "escape of the brains".

Smog risk: China's metropolises are often unhealthy

The Hurun Research Institute wanted to find out why so many wealthy Chinese think they should move abroad. For its study, it interviewed 224 Chinese people who have an average net worth of $ 4.5 million and who said they had already emigrated, were about to emigrate or had plans to do so in the future. Most of the respondents cited better educational opportunities (83 percent) and less pollution (69 percent) as reasons. China's metropolises in particular have the reputation of being trapped in a smog bell day in and day out. Schools and universities in the USA and Canada are particularly popular among wealthy Chinese.

What goes unmentioned, but is also likely to be a factor, is the existing legal uncertainty in the authoritarian Chinese state. Who can be sure that the superiors won't turn against wealthy fellow citizens and access their assets? Head of state Xi Jinping promised to take massive action against corruption in public authorities. Critics fear, however, that behind Xi's campaign there is less of a desire to banish abuse of power once and for all from the rampant Chinese state apparatus. Rather, they fear that the president will use the slogan as a club against unpleasant adversaries.

90 percent want to retire in China

How arbitrary China's judiciary sometimes appears from the outside is shown by the ongoing conflict between the Middle Kingdom and Canada. In early December, at the urging of the US, Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the powerful finance director of the Chinese smartphone giant. The US judiciary accuses her of violating Iran sanctions. China apparently refused to accept this and shortly afterwards arrested two Canadians, allegedly for reasons of national security. In addition, the Chinese judiciary converted a prison sentence for a Canadian convicted of drug smuggling into a death penalty. Canada, the US and the EU suspect that China is trying to put pressure on it. You spoke out against China's actions.

Read also: China's enemies of the state: 2 Uyghurs describe how their families disappeared in Beijing's secret camps

China’s empires cannot find the conditions in their homeland that bad either. In the study by the Hurun Research Institute, 90 percent of those questioned said they would like to spend their old age in China. At least that should reassure those in power in Beijing.