Dollars and yuan notes.
Credit: Stringer

It's called investment immigration, and it's a fancy term for what's going on in China: wealthy people going overseas to spend their money.

This is not a new development, but it is one that is gaining force.

About 60 percent of Chinese people with more than $15 million to their name have already left the country or have plans to, according to the 2011 China Private Wealth Study, released last week by China Merchants Bank and consulting firm Bain & Company.

China's exodus of rich people began in 2009, with most of them heading to the United States, Australia and Canada.

Why so eager to hit the road?

Essentially, the answer seems to be that they can't raise their living standard as high as they would like to back home.

In an opinion piece in the Chinese publication Global Times, Feng Haining writes that it's natural for rich people to want a sweet life.

"But in China, public welfare and services such as education and medical care are far from meeting the basic needs of the average person, let alone the wealthiest," Haining wrote in Global Times.

Haining went on to say that some of China's new policies which are aimed at reducing the wealth gap, serve instead to deter the rich. "Measures include raising the tax rate for high earners, controlling property purchases and clamping down on overheated markets, including gold and silver investment."

George Chen at Reuters said it doesn't have all that much to do with taxes, though. The main reasons wealthy Chinese want to flee have to do with retirement and their children’s education.

"Only 6 percent of respondents considering emigrating cited taxes as a reason for leaving China," Chen wrote.

Whatever the reason, they are heading for the hills, and as a result won't be directing their wealth back into the Chinese economy — the long-term impact of which has yet to be seen.

Global Voices has rounded up netizens' thoughts on the matter.

Related Stories