Subtle yet significant influx of immigrants into China

Published on Author marybeth

The number of foreigners currently residing in China either as permanent residents or as green card holders has been on the rise in the past few years. In 2011, the Chinese government issued 564 immigrants permanent visas and 656 permanent visas in 2012.

While the increase in the number of immigrants may seem insignificant compared to the United States, which issued over 1,000,000 green cards in 2012, this influx of people into China represents a significant change from years past.  There is a marked difference between these immigrants and immigrants to other countries: over half are Chinese-immigrants or adult children of Chinese-immigrants who lived elsewhere before returning or immigrating to China. The majority of the people immigrating previously lived in the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, and Japan.

The hope is that this increasing rate of growth will draw talented foreigners to China “to promote economic and social development and enhance international communications.”


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2 Responses to Subtle yet significant influx of immigrants into China

  1. This story rings odd, because normally you’d not be an immigrant if you are China-born. Now there have been others all along, international students from Central Asia or Africa who chose to stay (I’ve met both), American executives who at least on a provisional basis seek permanent status (ditto) without necessarily giving up their passports. [That’s the case in the US where a Green Card holder continues to carry their original passport.] Then there are illegal immigrants (North Koreans) and involuntary immigrants from Burma and other border areas (trafficking in women for the sex trade and as brides).

    To me the numbers thus seem unrealistically small — I’ve met so few people in China that I have to assume I can multiply anything I observe a thousand-fold if not much more. I know as well from books used in previous years of immigrant communities of other sorts, eg of Indians software people in a city in the interior. Perhaps they don’t have formal “permanent” status but certainly they have lived many years in-country. So try checking other sources to see whether the reporter really got the story straight!!

    In any case, the “significant” in your title is not born out by the content of your post.

  2. The article and previous comment highlight the growing trend of the “reverse brain drain.” Rather than the typical movement of human capital from developing to developed countries, China is beginning to see the flow of educated immigrants coming from a developed country to a less developed country (China). As Marybeth points out, the majority of the immigrants are from the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, and Japan. This next step in China’s economic development is a valuable way to contribute to the level of information and technological innovation within the Chinese economy. The influx of human capital theoretically should raise the productivity of the Chinese economy, contributing to a rising level of income per capita and potential growth. The increasing number of immigrants from developed countries indicates that China is poised to continue making strides toward Premier Li’s goal of moving China away from an export-driven to a consumption-driven economy (as well as basic development). Thus, as human capital continues to expand, resulting with higher income per capita, the trend toward consumption should continue.