After a lifetime of service to their country, some Chinese officials can’t wait to escape from it.
China’s government officials may be tasked with serving the country, but many are saving up just so they can leave it.
“Naked officials” have come to prominence recently with over 1,000 Guangdong officials reprimanded for having moved their family and assets overseas. However, this doesn’t even scratch the surface. As reported by China Youth Report, Chinese officials have begun forming another demographic that have emigrated overseas to become investors in foreign real estate.
The report is heavily based upon an interview with Wu Guo, a wealthy businessman from Western China who now lives in an upper-class US neighborhood.
Wu’s neighbors and guanxi primarily consist of former Chinese officials who have also emigrated abroad. Wu mentioned an official in his 40s who worked in a railroad department. He decided he had saved enough money a couple of years ago so quit, got himself a fake vacation visa, then took his entire family to America.
These wealthy former Chinese officials primarily invest in real estate, which is common among other groups of Chinese overseas as well.
According to a July report by the US real estate brokers association (NAR), ethnic Chinese purchased $22 billion worth of real estate from April 2013 to March 2014. Chinese buyers were reported to have spent the most at $600,000 each on average. Furthermore, 76 percent of those purchases were made using cash.
An analysis by Yang Ping explains the reasoning behind the tendency to purchase real estate:
My investment may not make a profit, but it will be able to get me a green card.
In 2004 and 2005, Wu noticed a number of Chinese officials emigrating overseas, especially to Beverley Hills and Vancouver. Wu explains how they get away:
(Officials) of lower grade can apply using their own authentic identities. (Officials) with a higher grade will have to apply using a fake identity. Some still receive a salary from (the Chinese government) even after immigrating.
Wu also explains the plight of the “naked official”, and how their position puts them in a compromising position:
The wife and children have already been sent away, and they are getting ready themselves by procuring a green card. However, they are afraid of the risk during their green card application, and so don’t do it.
Once they’ve arrived though, they quickly realize things aren’t the same as they were back in China. Many of them are unable to assimilate into US local society or upper class social circles. Instead, they keep to themselves:
They have money, and so form their own circles. Every day these people eat and drink together, have tea, play mahjong.
But it’s real estate investor Chen Min that categorizes the worst corruption in China as coming from huge bureaucracies, or in distant places beyond the reach of the central government:
(These officials) will come from one of two places: from big cities like Beijing or Shanghai, or from tiny places that you have never heard of.
It comes down to this: A lifetime of toil and moral choices culminates in a decision to escape from the system that made you. Perhaps its for this reason that popular television show Prison Break enjoyed a huge following in China.