Why many rich Chinese don’t live in China



In 2017 more than 46% of Chinese with fortunes between 10m and 200m yuan ($1.3m-26.3m) were thinking of emigrating, according to a survey by Hurun, the research company in Shanghai. In a joint survey with Visas Consulting Group, a Canadian firm, more than three-quarters of respondents mentioned their children’s education as a reason. Nearly one in six pointed to the political environment in China, and almost one in five said they were hoping to protect their assets.

The insecurity of wealthy Chinese, and their craving for Western education for their children, is evident in the rapid growth of whole communities of them in the suburbs of big Australian, American and Canadian cities. Hurstville in Sydney, Box Hill in Melbourne and Richmond in San Francisco, as well as Richmond in Vancouver, are places for which 20 years ago Wei Li, an academic now at Arizona State University, coined the word “ethnoburb”: prosperous city districts where recent migrants from China form a large share of the population.

Such places also point to a contradiction in the story of China’s own development. Despite more opportunities at home, growing numbers of those who can afford it seem to want to leave. Even China’s state-owned media admit this. “The passion shown by China’s super-rich for settling down abroad and obtaining overseas passports has reached a record high,” said China Daily, an official English-language newspaper, in 2014.

The number of Chinese students in Australia increased by 17% last year, to 140,000. Apart from the quality of the education, and less fierce competition for places than at China’s best universities, there is another powerful draw: the relative ease with which foreigners who have graduated in Australia can become resident there.

In Sydney, Monika Tu, the founder of Black Diamondz Property Concierge, specialises in selling expensive houses to rich Chinese. She says she sees little impact from China’s recent clampdown on the movement of capital abroad, or from the government’s efforts to stop corrupt officials from fleeing the country with their wealth. Growing numbers of her clients are young Chinese who have made their fortunes in the country’s booming tech industries. They see bargains to be had in what is often jokingly referred to as tu Ao (coarse Australia). Beijing and Shanghai are “much more expensive than Sydney”, says Ms Tu.

TL;DR: Real estate in parts of Australia and the west coast of US/Canada will continue to be extremely expensive. Good news for current property owners and landlords. Not so much for new landlords that want to get into those places’ real estate market, and people who want to move to those places for jobs.

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