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Chinese exodus

Ying Yang / gd
May 9, 2014

China's President Xi Jinping has been keen on promoting his vision of the "Chinese dream." But millions of Chinese - especially wealthy ones - are pursuing a different goal: they dream of emigrating.

Image: ibphoto - Fotolia.com

Every day Beijing resident Gu Xuan picks up her seven-year-old daughter from school at exactly 3:00 PM. "It's simply too dangerous to let my child travel to and from school on her own," Gu told DW. Although she failed to specify the nature of the threat, Gu, who asked us to refrain from using her real name, and an her husband have already decided that their daughter will be attending school in the United states in the near future.

The girl has been made aware of her parents' plans, but not even her mother is really sure if the seven-year-old fully understands the consequences of this decision. But according to a recently published article in the US edition of China Daily, it's not only Chinese millionaires who send off their offspring to expensive schools abroad. Member of China's middle class are also increasingly inclined to have their children educated abroad.

Destination USA

Topping the list of are mainly English-speaking countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. These countries have also registered the highest number of Chinese immigrants in the past couple of years. In 2012 alone, some 150,000 Chinese emigrated to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, according to a study published by the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization. There are currently five times more Chinese emigrating to the US than during the 1980s, most of which stem from China's affluent middle class and are aged between 35 and 55.

Chinatown market employees clean up their store February 19, 2009 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver is the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games being held February 12-28, 2010.
In 2012, some 150,000 Chinese emigrated to the US, Canada, Australia and New ZealandImage: Getty Images

Cai Jing gave birth to her son in the United States. Now she and her family live in Beijing. He's one year old and can barely say "mommy" and "daddy."

"As soon as he speaks better Chinese we will emigrate to US. As he was born there, I don't think we'll face any difficulties in terms of getting a green card," said the young mother.

'We don't feel secure here'

Her husband, Xue Jian, works as an executive in a private company. The couple had made exact plans for their future even before their son's birth. "We want to offer our son a good life. Children in China undergo a lot of stress and pressure. We have all experienced that and I don't want to put my son through this," Xue Jian told DW.

An increasing number of Chinese are leaving their home country in search of better educational opportunities for their children. But there are other reasons such as smog, pollution, unhealthy food and lack of security: "We simply don't feel secure here in China. The government claims that we live under the rule of law, but in reality I have often witnesses how individual rights how been violated. We are also afraid of a potential mass movement in the future," Xue adds, referring to a violent coup or revolution given the widening wealth gap in the country.

Finding a job

However, Xue points out that the whole family is not planning to remain in the US for a long time: "Perhaps I'll stay there for one or two months each year as there are much better chances of making money in China than abroad. But in the meantime, my wife and child will be able to enjoy the benefits of fresh air and the world's best education system."

In this photo taken on October 15, 2012 schoolboys listen to their teacher in class at the government-run Shanghai Number Eight High School in Shanghai. Shanghai, whose school system produces the world's top test-scorers, has launched China's first all-boys high school programme with an eye on elite overseas institutions like Eton.
China's school system seems to have lost some of its appealImage: AFP/Getty Images

Many families are willing to accept long periods of separation for the sake of a better education, as not everyone had the chance to find a well-paid job in their new country. For instance, a friend of Cai Jing's who did his PhD in China was only able to find a job as supermarket cashier.

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