China is becoming increasingly popular as a destination for foreigners while the number of Chinese emigrants to the US has dwindled, according to an annual report on China's migration status released on Thursday.
Experts attributed the increasing popularity to the growth of China's national strength and improved global image.
There were some 848,500 foreign residents in China in 2013, with an average yearly increase of 3.9 percent compared with a decade ago, found the Annual Report on Chinese International Migration (2015) issued by the Center for China and Globalization (CCG).
Following Switzerland and Singapore, China ranked third in the most attractive countries and regions to foreigners, added the report, citing the Expat Explorer Report 2014 issued by the HSBC Group in October last year. This report surveyed 9,300 high-earning expats living across the globe. It found that China was home to the highest-earning expats, with 23 percent earning over $300,000 annually.
Statistics from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange show that more than 612,000 work visits were made to China last year, an increase of 83,000 from 2011.
"China has strong momentum to attract more foreigners in the future. The nation's gigantic GDP and rapid growth provides numerous opportunities and vast space for development," Wang Huiyao, director general of the CCG, told the Global Times.
The rising number of foreigners in China shows how China's status and image in the world have improved, said Song Quancheng, director of the Institute of Migration Studies at Shandong University.
"It's also a result of our market demands as China is going through structural change in the job markets. Labor costs in China have increased, creating a demand for labor at the lower end," Song said, adding that more foreigners living in China come from developing countries. This includes Vietnam, the Philippines and Myanmar.
A breakdown of the nationality of the foreigners in China was not given in the report.
Meanwhile, the report said that the number of Chinese residents receiving US permanent residency dropped to around 71,000 in 2013, a 12.2 percent decrease from 2012, but technology and investment immigration in the US still had its appeal.
In 2013, skilled immigrants from the Chinese mainland accounted for 28.2 percent of the total migrant population in the US, up 4.9 percent from 2012. China is also the prime source of investment immigration to the US. Chinese citizens account for over 85 percent of those who hold an investor visa.
"The US no longer holds as strong an attraction as before, since China has been working to narrow the gap between itself and the US, in both the economy and social development," Song said. "Skilled and investor immigrants have always been the most welcomed in the world. China should also adjust its policy to attract more resources from the world for national development."
Despite the drop, the US was still the favored destination for Chinese émigrés in 2013, with Canada second with 34,000 Chinese migrants and Australia third with 27,334. South Korea, Japan and Singapore were next. No total figure was given.
Wang agreed that China should not miss the trend of international migration. Compared with developed countries, which on average have a ratio of foreign expats of around 10 percent, China lags far behind with a ratio of less than 1 percent.
A total of 1,402 foreign expats received a China green card approved by the Ministry of Public Security in 2013, a 16.6 percent increase in compared with 2012. The total number of China green card holders was 7,356 as of 2013.
Experts suggested that more systematic measures should be implemented to attract talented people, including setting up a migration department and passing a law on migration.
"The number of overseas Chinese is estimated to have reached 60 million, three-quarters of whom live in Southeast Asia. They can play a significant role in promoting China's relations with other countries as well as China's global strategies, such as the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative," Wang said, suggesting overseas Chinese take the lead in participating in project construction to dispel possible mistrust among local societies.
China contributed the largest number of outbound tourists in the world in 2014. Some 115 million trips were made in 2014 with travel expenses topping $155 billion, indicating a tourism trade deficit of more than $100 billion - the largest trade deficit in the world, the report added.