DRAFT - NOT FOR QUOTATION - 17 March 2009
Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008)
Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008); cADB (2007)
With the opening of its market to the outside world in the late 1970s, China now fosters a market economy with socialist characteristics. China had been one of the best-performing economies in Asia during the past decade. It became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. Between 2003 and 2006, the country recorded a strong economic performance driven by strong investment. Although China has appreciably reduced rural poverty over the past years, many of its people in rural areas still live in poverty. Chinese leaders began to realize the need to address the social costs of growth such as the growing income inequality between urban and rural dwellers. Hence, emphasis is being placed on improving conditions of rural residents who have less benefited from the country’s economic growth.
The following are among the landmark events that have had a bearing on China’s migration experience:
Internal migration is one of the most pressing issues facing the country today as an estimated 200 million people from inland rural provinces have flocked to urban areas in the eastern coastal region in search for jobs. They have become a vital labor force in China’s economic growth. However, the hukou (household registration) system – linking entitlements to land, jobs, housing, food and other benefits to the place of residence – has excluded rural migrants from most state-sponsored benefits in cities. Much has been reported about farmers-turned-migrants becoming a new “underclass” in cities. There have also been growing calls to reform the system. Authorities began working on measures to improve rural migrants’ working and living conditions, protect their rights and eradicate abuses against them. Attention has also been paid to some 22 million left-behind children of these migrant workers. Meanwhile, the problem on human smuggling and trafficking continues in China. The country’s strict one-child policy is said to be one of the factors that have facilitated trafficking of women, children and baby girls.
As of October 2007, more than 450,000 foreigners were living in the country, an increase from 230,000 in 2003. In August 2004, China introduced the “green card” system that allows foreigners to obtain permanent residence. Some 700 foreigners had been granted green cards as of October 2007 (AMN, 31 October 2007). In July 2005, the government relaxed the entry and exit regulations for Taiwanese residents as part of efforts to promote closer economic ties with Taiwan. Taiwanese residents are issued multiple entry and exit permits valid for one to five years. Other immigration issues include North Koreans crossing into northeastern China. China has conducted crackdowns and repatriations of North Korean defectors despite international calls for more humane approach towards them. This policy has driven many underground aid groups to smuggle North Koreans to other countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, where they would have better chances to seek asylum in South Korea or other countries.
(Ethnic) Chinese are widely spread across the globe, living in almost every country of the world. The estimated 33 million overseas Chinese as of the end of the 20th century had played a crucial role in facilitating new emigration and in channeling investments into the country. Chinese workers have also been employed abroad (e.g., Africa, Middle East) on contract to participate in engineering projects. Their involvement in “temporary” labor migration has been government controlled and sponsored. Meanwhile, irregular migration from China rapidly developed partly due to lack of labor migration system (or lack of official channels) unlike other Asian sending countries. In addition, China has the highest number of outbound students in the world. The government allowed its citizens to study abroad in 1978. From the 1980s to 2006, an estimated one million Chinese students left the country to study abroad and two-thirds of them chose to stay abroad after graduation (AMN, 15 February 2007). In spite of concerns over brain drain, China benefits enormously from the remittances of overseas Chinese, with some $20 billion every year (AMN, 15 February 2007). Major cities like Shanghai are active in recruiting overseas Chinese professionals, especially those based in the US and Canada (for figures see Table 1) (AMN, 15 September 2006).
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
2007 “East Asia: People’s Republic of China.” In Asian Development Outlook 2007. Available at http://www.adb.org/documents/books/ADO/2007/PRC.asp, accessed on 8 December 2008.
Asian Migration News (AMN) Various Years
Population Reference Bureau
2008 “2008 World Population Data Sheet.” Available at http://www.prb.org/pdf08/08WPDS_Eng.pdf, accessed on 21 November 2008.
2004 “China: From Exceptional Case to Global Participant.” Available at http://www.migrationinformation.org/Profiles/display.cfm?ID=219, accessed 7 January 2008.
n.d. “International Migration and Development Regional Fact Sheet: Asia.” Available at http://www.un.org/migration/presskit/factsheet_asia.pdf, accessed on 23 November 2007.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
2007 “Human Development Report 2007/2008.” Available at http://hdrstats.undp.org/countries/data_sheets/cty_ds_CHN.html, accessed on 9 December 2008.