Emigration: the move to flee from the fatalistic spell of Socialism

By He Qinglian on November 8, 2011
Translated from: http://voachineseblog.com/heqinglian/2011/11/immigration/

While Russia has in formality completed a round of “democratization”, China still insists to stick with what the CCP refers to as the “Socialist path”. There is one thing these two countries have in common in the last two years: their citizens would try everything possible means to emigrate if they meet the necessary financial requirements.

Let's first talk about the Chinese emigrants. In the past two years, topics relating to the Chinese emigrants are on the increase. There were serious studies of these topics, such as the HSBC's study in 2010 which stated that: of the wealthy group in mainland China who make more than 12,000 RMB each month or have above 500 thousand in liquidity, 60% are planning to emigrate within the next decade; and the survey jointly conducted by the Bank of China and Hurun Report which findings were published in late October revealed that more than half of those who have ten million or more in assets intend to emigrate. 

There was also information that was hard to verify, like the alleged advertisement of an emigration company that has been circulating on Weibo: “If you own ten million and do not emigrate, you fail your entire family.” 

As said, emigration has become the greeting words when friends gather together: “Are you planning to emigrate?” It is also said that friends or co-workers with good relationship would plan to emigrate together, and if possible, buy flats in the same or adjacent districts in the new country so that they could take care of each other...

And there was a kuso advertisement drawing that one cannot laugh at: in the lower right there was a picture of Jet Li smiling, and the words above the picture was: “Those who have power and influence emigrate, those who lack both resort to smuggling. Is this a country or a prison? Would a country be like this? No, it surely is a prison. Otherwise, how come people would want to flee from here whether they have money or not? Ever heard of American illegal immigrants?”
Regarding the cause of this wave of emigration, China's media pretend to be calm in their analysis. They said the majority of those who emigrate were for the sake of their child's education and growth. While these people personally obtained foreign nationalities, their assets remain in China because they are accustomed to the business environment in China, and they have social connection here, something that they cannot part from. 

But, many revealed privately that they are increasingly worried about the social problems of China: the one-child policy, food safety, pollution, corruption, poor education quality and the weak legal system. Recently, Li Daokui, a member of the China central bank's monetary policy committee, told the truth during an interview. He thought the social environment for the wealth generators need to be improved, so as to keep their hearts in the country.

And now let's look at why elites of Russia, the country that had served as the mentor of the Chinese Communist Revolution and completed one step ahead of China in political democratization, want to emigrate.

According to the latest statistics from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences, in the past three years 1.2 million Russians moved overseas. The latest poll by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VtsIOM) showed that 22% of Russian citizens want to leave Russia and settle overseas. Back in 1991 when the U.S.S.R. just disintegrated, there was only 5% of the country's population who wanted to settle overseas. 

This wave of emigration has in addition the following characteristics: the Russians planning to emigrate have become “high-endified” and “eliticized” in terms of social status; most of them had received higher education and are talents with professional specialties; they are members of the middle class with high net worth. What these people take away from Russia are high-technologies and funds that the country desperately needs for development.

Many of the reasons for the Russians to emigrate are similar to that of the Chinese, such as for their children and for their study. And since the Russians enjoy what the Chinese do not have: freedom of speech, they give reasons that the Chinese are unwilling to state explicitly—

The entrepreneurs are worried about insecurity. It takes massive money and energy to found a company in Russia, yet there is no protection for property. There are in London many Russian business persons like this: when they themselves or their political benefactors are not welcome by the government, they would have to instantly board a British Airway flight to come to Britain.
The channels for people to move up the social ladder are blocked. The middle class in general think that, the mature state capitalism of Russia cuts off the ways the young people who received good education to move upward.
Poor quality of life. Whether it is the elite or the middle class, both think that the Russian education system is on the brink of collapse. From enrollment quota to university certificate, all can purchased with money. They think they have the obligation to provide with their children the choice of living and working overseas.

There are only two differences in the reasons the Chinese and Russians who intend to emigrate. The Russians raised a significant political factor: they hate Vladimir Putin's dictatorship and the public opinion control by the government. Some Russians who had received good education think that the government-controlled TV news, movies, and even popular music are making them out of touch with the international community. These government-controlled TV news never criticize Vladimir Putin or Dmitry Medvedev, day after day they repeat the message that Western countries are enemies of Russia. 

The elite and the middle class do not see the possibility of Russia being liberated from the new dictatorship of Vladimir Putin in the short run.

The criticism of the political system and media control were not mentioned in the emigration-related poll in China. One cannot tell whether this was the result of the poll conductors deliberately sidestepping the issues, or the emigrants having no hatred of the autocratic system. But the Chinese did mention the dreadful environmental pollution in China, a problem that the Russians have no apprehension about. That's to say, the reasons for the Chinese people to emigrate are mainly about aspects of life, and the Russians in comparison have a stronger sense of rights awareness. 

This is similar to the impetuses that drove both countries to reform respectively in earlier years: the Russians needed freedom of speech and the Chinese wanted to be well-fed. The former sought to satisfy the social function of the mouth; the latter, its physiological function.

Among the people surveyed, those who intend to leave made up 62.5% of the Russian respondents and nearly 60% of the Chinese counterparts.

As a Chinese intellectual that had lived under dictatorship, I fully understand the emigration move the Chinese and the Russians have taken to flee from the fatalistic spell of Socialism. However, the countries around the world cannot take in unlimited immigrants. With a small population, Russia may not cause problems because of its emigrants; yet China, with its huge population, would definitely prompt countries to close the door of immigration that is narrowing down if the wave of exodus from the country starts.