Chinese Fleeing PRC: The Hotel California Effect

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/17/2014 01:30:00 AM
There's no getting away from the PRC, mates.
There's an excellent article at the WSJ concerning wealthy Chinese leaving the PRC...for good. It is fairly common for wealthy people in poor countries to secure overseas residences in the event trouble breaks out at home. That is, they have safety nets if, say, the Communist Party starts persecuting capitalist roaders by tossing the in jail or packing them off to reeducation camps. You never can tell when the Communists have an urge to start acting communistic. What I was not aware of, however, is that a fairly large exodus is already underway even in these years of PRC prosperity. After all, there is not much to enjoy living in your Beijing mega-palace when the air is so bad and so is the traffic. So, there's a push for (literally) greener pastures:
But rapidly growing numbers are college students and the wealthy, and many of them stay away for good. A survey by the Shanghai research firm Hurun Report [of "Rich List" fame] hows that 64% of China's rich—defined as those with assets of more than $1.6 million—are either emigrating or planning to. To be sure, the departure of China's brightest and best for study and work isn't a fresh phenomenon. China's communist revolution was led, after all, by intellectuals schooled in Europe. What's new is that they are planning to leave the country in its ascendancy. More and more talented Chinese are looking at the upward trajectory of this emerging superpower and deciding, nevertheless, that they're better off elsewhere.
They are leaving in pursuit of things money can't buy:
 The decision to go is often a mix of push and pull. The elite are discovering that they can buy a comfortable lifestyle at surprisingly affordable prices in places such as California and the Australian Gold Coast, while no amount of money can purchase an escape in China from the immense problems afflicting its urban society: pollution, food safety, a broken education system. 
What is most interesting though is how China's sprawling Maoist-Marxist-Leninist apparatus still keeps tabs on those who have chosen to leave. To ensure that the PRC isn't defamed and that its erstwhile residents act as good ambassadors for the CCP and what it represents, no effort is spared. As the final stanza of the "Hotel California" goes, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave:
The new political era of President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, has created as much anxiety as hope. Another aspect of this massive population outflow hasn't yet drawn much attention. Whatever their motives and wherever they go, those who depart will be shadowed by the organs of the Leninist state they've left behind. A sprawling bureaucracy—the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council—exists to ensure that distance from the motherland doesn't dull their patriotism. Its goal is to safeguard loyalty to the Communist Party.

This often sets up an awkward dynamic between Chinese arrivals and the societies that take them in. While the newcomers try to fit in, Beijing makes every effort to use them in its campaign to project its political values, enhance its global image, harass its opponents and promote the use of standard Mandarin Chinese over the dialects spoken in Taiwan and Hong Kong. 
Hokkien and Cantonese? Getouttahere! It's strange but true: these folks are choosing to leave for greener pastures, yet the country they left still seeks to recruit them in a propaganda campaign aimed at making the PRC top dog not only in Chinese communities abroad but also in communicating the official Party line to others.

It's like someone divorcing you and you wishing to hang on by asking your former spouse to support the very extra-curricular activities that drove them away in the first place. Make no mistake: being prominent Chinese has a lot of baggage wherever you go.