Shanghai pulls in overseas crowds

Updated: 2011-10-14 08:44

By Shi Yingying (China Daily)

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 Shanghai pulls in overseas crowds

Attractive business and work opportunities have brought many overseas people to Shanghai. Zhou Dongchao / for China Daily

Census figures cast light on the foreigners who choose to make China their home

Shanghai now has the highest concentration of any Chinese city of residents from overseas and from Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan. China plays host to a little more than 1 million such people, a report says.

Nine out of every 1,000 people living in Shanghai come from overseas, Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan, says the Shanghai Bureau of Statistics report, based on results from the sixth national census. For the first time, the census took into account foreigners staying in China for three months or more.

Citizens of the Republic of Korea represent the largest foreign population in China, says Wang Daben, a professor in the China population and development research center at East China Normal University.

"South Koreans and Japanese tend to take their families to China because of proximity and the cultural similarities."

The National Bureau of Statistics says 120,750 citizens from the Republic of Korea live in China, 20 percent of the 590,832 foreigners living in the country. The next biggest groups are Americans and Japanese.

"The main reason why (Shanghai) has so many foreigners from (those three countries) is that we have more foreign companies from those countries in the city," Wang says.

"Many Japanese and South Korean businesses, for example, have been set up in the Hongqiao Commercial Zone of Shanghai, so more South Koreans and Japanese now live there."

The seventh biggest group of foreigners living in China is the French, at 15,087. Germany is ninth.

Shanghai Bureau of Statistics says that of the 23 million people living in the city, about 208,300 are from outside the mainland.

Beijing has 107,445 foreigners and people from Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan in its population of 19.6 million.

When those living in Shanghai who are not locals are asked why they live there, it is clear that business and work opportunities are a magnet.

"Shanghai is the economic center of China, and there are lots of business opportunities," says Maksy Palkiewicz, 30, an Italian who arrived there five years ago.

Census replies indicated that 40 percent of outsiders in Shanghai were there mainly for business or employment.

Palkiewicz says another reason he picked Shanghai rather than Beijing or Sanya in the southern island province of Hainan is the city's blend of cultures.

"It's easier for a foreigner to become familiar with the local culture. In Shanghai there's a good mix."

In a recent work project conducted with a Belgian chocolate shop in Shanghai, Palkiewicz sold more than 3,000 boxes of chocolate mooncakes, a sweet many Chinese eat to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

"The interesting thing is that even though I'm a foreigner, I can make products that Shanghai residents think are 'very local'."

Of the overseas residents and those from Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan whose views were collected by the National Bureau of Statistics, about 18 percent said they came to the country solely to take up residence.

Palkiewicz says he would like to stay in Shanghai permanently, but buying an apartment there may be difficult.

"For foreigners in Shanghai, buying property is not easy, and honestly speaking, the price of real estate is way too expensive."

Christopher Palmer, a US citizen, says that staying permanently means filling in and lodging complicated legal papers and, if a person wants to buy property, he or she would have to overcome various difficulties.

(China Daily 10/14/2011 page3)