08 Jul The growing number of expatriates in China
Increasing quality of life, attractive economic prospects and a focus on social development attracts foreigners from all around the world to settle in the mainland China. The numbers have been steadily increasing, reportedly surpassing one million in 2018, according to the South China Morning Post. Despite a couple of adverse immigration regulations in the past, the Chinese government is encouraging foreigners to migrate and start their careers in China. Wang Huiyao, director of the China Globalisation Centre, believes that streamlining the process of attaining insurance, green cards and visas will give a significant boost to the migration numbers.
International students are also targeted, multiple first and second-class tier cities have implemented various schemes to attract the young prospects. Shenyang is a leading example as it grants visas to international students planning to start a business in the city. The idea is to improve and diversify the international business environment in the region. Multiple other cities are running university exchange programs, especially with Europe and North America.
South Korea, United States and Japan account for around 40% of the expatriates. Europeans are not as common with France and Germany making up around 1/20th of the total foreign population in China. Surprisingly, almost 3 out of 4 newcomers are male.
The substantial differences between Chinese and European languages do pose a steep learning curve – the grammar, pronunciation and alphabet are completely alien for the western world. According to China Briefing, two thirds of the expats barely know any Mandarin. Most of them rely on English to communicate and get by on a daily basis. Despite this struggle, the language barrier does not seem to be hindering the experience too much, as over 70% are satisfied with their lives in China.
A significant portion of the expatriates choose Shanghai as their new home, with Beijing coming close in the second place. The other popular cities are Shenzhen, Tianjin and Qingdao. Mainland megacities, such as Chengdu and Chongqing did not make the top ten, showing that east coast is still seen as a more attractive region, despite the fact that the quality of living and salaries are comparable. Another reason could be the international aspect of each city, other nonnative residents and a higher level of English on the streets can bring comfort, especially in the first weeks of the stay.
China, a fascinating country with a diverse culture is a great escape for people looking to change their lives and start a new life. The range of career opportunities in a rapidly developing country, with lower costs of living make China one of the best contenders for living abroad.