Nearly half of China's wealthiest families are planning to emigrate or are in the process of emigrating, according to a recent report.
A survey of the wealthiest private individuals in 2011 carried out by the Bank of China and the magazine Hurun found that 14 percent of the richest families are already living overseas, or at least have foreign passports.
And a total of 46 percent said they were either in the process of emigrating, or were planning to do so.
The poll surveyed 980 Chinese people in 18 major cities with assets of more than 10 million yuan (U.S. $1.6 million).
China is currently home to 960,000 people with assets of more than 10 million yuan, Hurun reported in November.
The movement overseas of wealthy Chinese is being driven by a quest for a cleaner environment, safe food and medicines, and a good education system, recent reports said
According to Hurun, 2,969 Chinese nationals applied to emigrate to the U.S. last year, a 10-fold increase compared with 2007.
Applications to emigrate to Canada meanwhile have risen seven-fold since 2009, totaling 2,567 applications.
Concern for assets
According to a report in Forbes magazine's online edition this week, the percentage of people preparing or wishing to emigrate is even higher among the super-rich.
Seventy-four percent of families with assets of more than 100 million yuan (U.S. $16 million) report such plans, and of that group, 27 percent already live overseas, the Forbes report said.
Liao Tianqi, a Germany-based member of the writers' group Independent Chinese PEN, said China's rich are mostly concerned about the security of their assets.
"They are afraid that the security of their assets won't be protected in China," Liao said. "Chinese legislation is still far from perfect, and the political, economic, and investment environment is quite murky."
"Other factors include the education of their children, the environment, and the high taxes they have to pay," he said.
"China isn't really fit for human habitation," Liao said. "There are a lot of factors giving rise to this strange phenomenon in which everyone is desperate to live somewhere else."
Fears for the future
U.S.-based scholar and former Macau University professor Cheng Tijie said that, more and more, many families are moving overseas because their children do not return after graduating from college.
"Some of them do want to go back to China after they graduate, but a lot of them think, 'Well, I'll just get a green card first.'"
Many of them are entirely motivated by job opportunities, though, he said.
"If they find it easy to make money in America, then they'll do it in America. If it's easier for them in China, then they'll do it in China," Cheng said.
But he said that China's wealthy are clearly pessimistic about their country's economic and financial future.
"Also, a lot of people are pretty disappointed in the Chinese education system," Cheng said. "They don't even think about going back to China."
Reported by Xi Wang for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.