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Current Migration Development

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Current Migration Development

Lan Diao Maren Opitz

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Since the year 2000 the foreign population in China has grown by 35 per cent, but in comparison to the total population of China the number of foreigners ist still small. Furthermore, the number of emigrants considerably exceeds the number of immigrants.

Chinatown in San Francisco / USA. 12 per cent of Chinese emigrants head for the United States. (© picture alliance / Wendy Connett/Robert Harding)

In comparison to the total Chinese population, the number of international migrants has been hardly significant. The 6th population census in 2010 for the first time factors in foreigners who stayed at least three months in the country, including ethnic Chinese with foreign citizenship. According to that census, 1.02 million foreigners live in China, 70 percent (ca. 680,000 people) of whom had already been in the country for one year or longer. Since the year 2000 the foreign population in China has grown by 35 percent.

The economic recovery in recent decades and the employment opportunities for foreign employees and businessmen that it brings with it make China an increasingly attractive destination country for foreigners and their families. The relatively stable political situation in place since the early 1990s also contributes to this development. Furthermore, living standards in many Chinese cities are comparable to western industrial countries, including access to education and medical care. However, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicates that China’s rapid economic growth is yet to be reflected in the numbers of foreign workers in the country; there are hardly any official political measures for the hiring of highly skilled laborers.

Furthermore, the number of emigrants considerably exceeds the number of immigrants. More and more well educated Chinese are settling (temporarily) abroad. Of the current 50 million Chinese living abroad, 10 percent migrated after 1978. About 5 percent of Chinese abroad possess Chinese citizenship. According to estimates, China is the second largest recipient of emigrant remittances worldwide.

Destinations of the 50 million overseas Chinese (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/3.0/de/

Chinese leadership is trying to encourage well educated ethnic Chinese to come back to the People’s Republic. The number of returned Chinese students abroad, for instance, reached a record high of around 273,000 in 2012. Many of these returnees are beginning careers in technological branches, in the medical sector, in politics or in the management of multinational companies.

This text is part of the Interner Link: country profile China.



  1. Central Government of the People’s Republic of China (no date a), Shen (2011), Anich et al. (2013), p. 77.

  2. Center for China and Globalization (no date), Zhuang (2010), IOM (2012).

  3. Wang (2013).


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Lan Diao, Doctor of Educational Sciences in foreign language didactics with a focus on Chinese didactics, originally comes from Beijing and is currently a teacher for Chinese and German at a secondary school in Hamburg.

Maren Opitz has a master’s degree in International Migration and Intercultural Relations from the University of Osnabrück and is currently working for the German Youth for Understanding Committee in Hamburg. After completing her bachelor studies in Sinology, Civil Law and Language Acquisition Research she spent two years in China where she worked inter alia in the office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Shanghai.