Reflections on their motivations to move. A case study of wealthy Chinese migration to western democratic countries in the past two decades

Chau, Wai Fong (2023) Reflections on their motivations to move. A case study of wealthy Chinese migration to western democratic countries in the past two decades. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis analyses the subjective reasons for the migration of wealthy Chinese to four Western democratic countries in the past two decades. It explores the subjective social, economic, political, and environmental factors that influence the migration decisions of those wealthy Chinese. The study uses qualitative data from 60 semi-structured interviews with mainland Chinese migrants to Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and analysis of the resulting data shows that wealthy Chinese move abroad due to a combination of subjective reasons that include securing better quality of education, cleaner air, personal freedom and wealth security, and a comfortable and more autonomous lifestyle in Western democratic countries. The thesis illustrates that no single theory can explain the reasons behind the emigration of wealthy Chinese due to the multi-faceted characterstics of the process. This study shows that wealthy Chinese migrants pursue the goals of increased freedoms and improved political status in the country of residence by taking advantage of their economic privilege in their country of origin. Moreover, the study resonates with Hirschman’s argument that poor governance and limited access to rights in undemocratic countries are important factors driving people to leave their home countries (Hirschman, 1993), even when these countries have achieived rapid economic growth.

The findings contribute to the literature on Chinese migration in three ways. Firstly, they explain that the perennial problems associated with China’s single-party communist rule remain significant in pushing the wealthy class to relocate to Western democratic countries. The findings also add nuance to earlier research results by revealing that the introduction of the Social Credit System, the ‘original sin’ problem[sup]1 , ‘just one voice’, and the perceived likelihood of political regression under Xi Jinping’s leadership, together with weak protection of private property are identified by private entrepreneurs interviewed in this study as the most important drivers for leaving China. These political issues driving wealthy Chinese to leave their home country have been largely overlooked by prior research. Secondly, the present study illustrates Chinese migrants’ heterogeneous demographic characteristics and unearths empirical evidence on the intergenerational dynamics surrounding the migration of wealthy Chinese. Thirdly, this analysis suggests that the correlations between the effects of air pollution and migration decisions may be related to the geographical region of migrants’ hometowns and the specific year of migration. In short, the recent migration outflow from China has been politically motivated together with education, environmental, and lifestyle considerations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Supervisor's Name: Gherghina, Dr. Sergiu, Munro, Dr. Neil and Karyotis, Professor Georgios
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83758
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2023 09:07
Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 09:46
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83758

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