Recently, there has been a new movement among the Chinese rich and middle class called “run”. This trend started last year but has recently returned.

According to observers, after China endorsed the “common prosperity” drive, many rich people have already fled. The zero-COVID policy is just the final straw to overwhelm the rich. Middle class Chinese want to get out of China as soon as possible in the cheapest way.

Some European countries with lower immigration thresholds, such as Portugal, Ireland, and Malta, have become their first choice of target countries.

Top-searched volume for keyword “migrants”

The World Migration Report 2022 of the UN Migration Programme reveals some unprecedented challenges of the pandemic on migration. However, the number of searches for the keyword “immigration” on major search platforms has recently increased.

A recent WeChat index shows an almost seven-fold jump for “immigration” since the beginning of April.

Meanwhile, the phrases “conditions for moving to Canada” and “where is it good to go abroad” ranked first and second on Baidu. The indexes increased almost 3% and 2.5% month-on-month, respectively. Shanghai, Tianjin, and Guangdong are the top three cities with the most searches for migration. 

Not only the rich, but the middle class also want to flee.

According to VOA Chinese, immigrants from China in the past were mainly in the wealthy class. But now the middle class also wants to get out of China.

Chen Yuancheng, Taiwan’s president of the Asia Family Office Association, told Voice of America that the rich Chinese have been looking for ways to move their money out of China in recent years.

According to Chen Yuancheng, those people are afraid that the Chinese government will divide their hard-earned savings, especially after last year’s “common prosperity” drive.

He said that by opening family offices overseas, wealthy Chinese can transfer and preserve their assets. Hence, they can pass it on to the next generation.

For example, Chen Yuancheng said that Singapore has opened more than 400 family offices in the past few years, almost half of them Chinese. 

Moreover, the New York Times cites technology columnist Li Yuan. In her report, she points out that China’s current wave of sequestration has severely impacted business operations and hit the economy hard.

She wrote about some businessmen’s concerns that China would return to the planned economy and make people poor again. 

Sohu cites information from the “2021 China Immigration Industry Data Report.” The reason for this is to preserve wealth when getting out of China accounts for 16%. 

Consultant Lin, from an international immigration company in Shenzhen, told the VOA that the number of people inquiring about immigration has almost doubled in the last two months. 

Common prosperity and epidemic control measures as driving forces

According to Chen Yuancheng, the Chinese government’s call for common prosperity is the main reason for driving the wealthy to leave.

In 2018, there were about 3,000 eligible family offices in China. By 2020, the number of eligible family offices will be 10,000. It means the number of wealthy Chinese people has increased.

According to VOA Chinese, the Chinese government’s control over immigration and capital outflow has tightened. Therefore, family offices became the common channels to assist the rich in managing their finances.

Chen Yuancheng said it was very difficult to transfer money out. People can only make a 50,000 dollar transfer per year. 

The second reason is the strict measures of the “zero-COVID” policy.

According to VOA Chinese, it is difficult to ensure a secure life without having more options ready in the epidemic. 

The 40 year old Zhao told VOA Chinese that it was unbearable to consider the possibility of emigration. However, Zhao said what really influenced her was the strict epidemic prevention policy. 

Lower threshold countries become the first choice of the middle class and how they migrate

According to the “2021 China Immigration Industry Data Report“, Canada, the United States, and Australia are the top three most popular destinations for Chinese immigrants. 

However, Lin said that inquiries about countries like Portugal, Ireland, and the Mediterranean island of Malta in Europe have increased. These countries have no language requirements; the prices are reasonable, and the naturalization procedures are simple.

Another benefit of these countries is that there is no immigration control.

According to Lin, Chinese nationals can be one-step permanent residents if they spend 1 million yuan (around 150,000 dollars) on a local house purchase. As mentioned in the report, home purchase has become the preferred method. It accounts for nearly 75%. 

Moreover, Chinese immigration applicants are seeing a new rush of applications for countries where they can obtain overseas status, where there are no hard immigration supervision requirements and no long-term residence is required. 

In addition, Chen Yuancheng observed that immigration is not the only way for the middle class to escape from China.

According to the report, the second method is via investment immigration. It accounts for 20.56% of all immigration. Meanwhile, skilled-worker immigration and study-abroad immigration account for 2.29% and 1.67%, respectively.

VOA Chinese cites some analysts. They said that China’s inquiries about immigration were high and the middle class was eager to move . But it does not mean that these people can really immigrate smoothly. 

The immigration application process takes from six months to two years to complete. In addition, China is still in a lockdown state. So, it has a direct effect on the process of applying to become an immigrant.

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