Radio Free Asia reported on November 12 that wealthy and middle-class Chinese plan to leave the country.

The exodus is a result of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) stringent “zero-COVID” policies and a perceived return to the planned economy of the Mao era under leader Xi Jinping.

The paper reported relying on online data and Chinese nationals with experience of the phenomenon.

According to the WeChat Index, which provides search statistics from the social media giant, people typed the keyword almost 38.3 million times on Thursday.

During the Shanghai shutdown between March and May, “emigration” search inquiries peaked at 70 million several times, then at 130 million right after.

Toutiao Index, Google Trends, and 360 Trends also showed peaks with the same keyword between April and the end of June 2022.

Two highly educated Chinese people recently told RFA in interviews that they and their friends are either leaving or planning to leave soon because of being tired of the “zero-COVID” policies.

Gao, a financial executive, based in Shanghai, said that lately, he binge-watched consultants’ YouTube videos of a better life in the Pacific nation of Vanuatu, Moldova, and even war-torn Ukraine.

He said that he could go anywhere but China.

The phenomenon even has its code name using a Chinese character parody of the English word “run.”

One immigration expert exclaimed, “I strongly, strongly encourage everyone to run!” in a YouTube video that RFA has seen.

He Peirong, a Chinese social activist with close to 40,000 Twitter followers, said she had recently flown to Japan.

She told RFA, “I had been preparing to leave the country since July, but I didn’t let anyone on WeChat know that I was leaving.”

She said she decided to leave China after being denied a rail ticket due to a poor “social credit” rating.

There are currently very long waiting lists for those hoping to emigrate to Europe, the United States, Canada, or Australia.

However, these countries’ price tags for investment visas are also reasonably high.

The paper reported that Southeast Asian countries appear to be too risky due to their close relations with China and willingness to deport Chinese people wanted by the CCP back home.

Staff at one such consultancy in Shanghai said they advise clients to try for a visa to Vanuatu while waiting for access to more popular destinations like Canada. The nation currently has an immigration backlog of two to three years.

Chen Daoyin is a Chinese political scientist who recently emigrated overseas.

Chen told RFA, “I call this phenomenon middle-class anxiety.”

He added, “Since the start of the pandemic, and especially since the 20th party congress, the future direction of China has become much clearer, and this anxiety has given rise to the ‘run’ phenomenon.”

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