Why Foreigners and Chinese Themselves Are Leaving China

Inside a Beijing immigration consulting company.

Inside a Beijing immigration consulting company.

From NetEase & iFeng:

American Media: Foreigners Gradually Leaving China Due to Social Changes

United States’ New York Times Chinese Online Edition article, original title: Why do they want to leave China?

Not long ago, an Englishman who has lived in China for a long time, married a Chinese wife, and has had a very successful business in China named Mark Kitto published on English-language media an article titled “You’ll never be Chinese — Why I’m leaving the country I loved“. He says in his text that after having studied, worked, and lived nearly over 10 years, China’s changes have made him ultimately decide to leave China taking his entire family. There is more than just one Westerner like him who loves China yet wants to leave.

Mark Kitto with wife and children in Moganshan.
Mark Kitto with wife and children.

Not only “forever unable to become Chinese” laowai have begun to consider leaving China, even Chinese people themselves are one after another beginning to emigrate overseas. According to Hurun‘s 2011 survey of the multimillionaires in 18 Chinese cities, 14% of the rich have already emigrated or are currently in the process, while 46% of the rich are currently considering emigrating abroad. Although it is unknown whether or not this data is accurate, at least it reveals a trend, a phenomenon that cannot be ignored.

30 years of economic reforms have benefited many people, with overall national living standards being much higher than 30 years ago. At the same time, the original model and system of putting the country’s modernization and development first is increasingly facing questions and challenges from various levels [or demographics of society] and interest groups. Every level has its own dissatisfaction, all believing the government does not take care of them enough, their discontents increasing. This isn’t just the grassroots [lower class] or the urban middle class, even vested interest groups and the rich are losing confidence in the current social contract. For the former, the injustice and unfairness in front of their eyes is the biggest dissatisfaction, while their method of expressing their discontent is to individually or cooperatively petition and protest. For the latter, their biggest concern is by and large the unpredictability and uncertainty of the future, while one of their ways of expressing their lack of confidence is to vote with their feet — “running away [emigrating abroad]”.

This uncertainty lies in the prevalence of unwritten rules in Chinese society, while the former rules are often twisted. The arbitrary administration of government departments is also very prevalent. With 30 years of reforms have also seen many rounds of government administrative reforms, but the people still do not have confidence or trust in the government. Mark Kitto lives in seclusion in Moganshan, engaged in the business of cafes and hostels as well as managing a top-selling magazine at the same time. He says every 3 years when he needs to renew his business permits/leases, he has to worry, not knowing when the local government will refuse to renew his licenses. For a businessman, this kind of money-wasting, time-wasting, energy-wasting, even unstable business operating and investment environment is what gives him a headache [troubles him].

What makes people unhappy and even “leave” also includes the rapidly economically developing social environment. Over 30 years of development, Chinese people’s material standard of living has greatly risen. But simultaneously one of the consequences it has brought is a money-centric “materialism”. This is a pervasively materialistic society. This high-speed development has environmental destruction and substandard quality as its costs. Materially-rich, spiritually-poor, lacking in ethics and values.

An Export of Students: Where are China's ultra-rich sending their children?

When researching why Chinese people want to emigrate overseas, one thing that is often brought up is education for their children. This is very much related to China’s education system. In China, educational opportunities remain less than abundance and even lacking, and many children owing to economic and institutional reasons are unable to get an education. The quality and educational methods of schools also cause many parents concerned with their children’s educational prospects. Kitto criticized China’s primary and middle school education as not learning knowledge but rather learning how to take tests. Although this is a little exaggerated, there’s also a lot of truth in it. Although higher education has gone through over a decade of expansion, [high school graduating] exam takers still have to exhaust themselves preparing for the gaokao college entrance examinations in order to get into college. The quality of university education too has not risen along with the growth in the number of college students. This too is why many people would rather spend large sums of money to send their children abroad for their children’s education.

Moreover, environmental pollution, food safety and quality, traffic, and other things that impact quality of life also cause many Chinese people and foreigners living in China to want to leave.

Comments from NetEase:


Let’s do a survey, those who want to emigrate/immigrate, ding [this comment].

[Note: At time of translation, this comment had 49,305 upvotes, making it the most highly voted netizen comment on the article.]

candtrae [网易加拿大网友]:

For my child’s future, so my entire family can have a better life, I’ve luckily already immigrated to the beautiful Maple Leaf country. Here life isn’t so filled with anxiety, vexation, annoyance, pain, nor do you have to worry about not being able to afford medical care, schooling, or retirement. May everyone have the opportunity to come here. You will discover a different world.

网易河南省郑州市手机网友: (responding to above)

Are you in the Maple Leaf country washing dishes for retirement? Or sweeping the streets? Do you know English? Have you passed the 4th Level [of English proficiency test]?

网易陕西省手机网友: (responding to above)

This… above, do you dare not be so embarrassing?

敏感的国 [网易四川省绵阳市网友]:

Openly asserting that the United States affects world safety, that Western hostile forces are continuously trying to subjugate our country, while secretly their relatives and assets have already been moved over there.
A wonder of China, a wonder of the world!

骑马o过海 [网易广东省广州市网友]:

The poor get poorer, the rich get richer, the corrupt become even more corrupt, society is unjust, materialism overflows, harboring ulterior motives, the more developed, the more angry everyone is, those below unable to live in peace and work happily, those above unable to see a way out of the predicaments, so leaving is the best choice.


To get to the point, the government is arbitrary! Think, why is business becoming harder and harder to do? Having to get renew certifications or business licenses every 3 years, various kinds of “eating, taking, obstructing, demanding” [referring to people with power working for themselves and their own interests rather than truly serving the people], where failure to pay the right respects [to those with power] means your so-called right to legally operate a business is lost. Whereas those who know people or have connections, regardless of whether or not their qualifications are up to standard, regardless of the hidden dangers, can all get the right to legally operate to compete with those honest and lawful companies. With this, how can malignant competition possibly be avoided?


Those with the means to leave and those who have embezzled/cheated enough have all TM left. Those who are left are all the miserable cunts. If I TM could go, I’d also go, but I simply can’t. MD.

我用脚投票 [网易加拿大网友]:

My friends who several years ago went back to be sea-turtle returnees [ethnic Chinese who grew up abroad or went abroad to study that have decided to return to their ancestral home country], are you guys still okay?

緈鍢冭遙逺 [网易山东省青岛市手机网友]:

If I had money, I’d also emigrate.

What do you think? What is the effect of foreigners and Chinese leaving China? What is the effect of Chinese immigrating to other countries?


Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.


Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.