(from MERICS China Monitor)
To the surprise of many, China has emerged as a destination country for immigration: As China’s population ages and its workforce shrinks, China needs more immigrants.
The background of immigrants to China is becoming more diverse. While the number of high-earning expatriates from developed countries has peaked, China is now also attracting more students than ever from all over the world, including many from lesser developed countries. Low-skilled labor and migration for marriage are also on the rise. The main areas that attract foreigners are the large urban centers along the coast (Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing) and borderland regions in the South, Northeast and Northwest, but smaller numbers are also making their way to smaller cities across China.
In the new MERICS China Monitor “How immigration is shaping Chinese society” [archived PDF], MERICS Director Frank N. Pieke and colleagues from other European universities and institutions discuss the most salient issues confronting the Chinese government and foreign residents themselves.
According to their analysis, for many foreigners China has become considerably less accommodating over the last ten years, particularly with regard to border control, public security, visa categories, and work and residence permits. China’s immigration policy is still driven by narrow concerns of regulation, institutionalization and control. It remains predicated on attracting high-quality professionals, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors. Long-term challenges like the emerging demographic transition, remain to be addressed.
The authors detect a worrying trend towards intolerance to ethnic and racial difference, fed by increasing nationalism and ethnic chauvinism. They argue that the Chinese government, civil society, foreign diplomatic missions, employers of foreigners and international organizations present in China should take a clear stance against racism and discrimination. China’s immigration policy needs to include the integration of foreigners into society and provide clear and predictable paths to acquiring permanent residence.