After 2013, the power equations not only in China but for the world have changed significantly. This is because of one person – Xi Jinping, who took over as the President of the People’s Republic of China, had an ambition to restore China’s historical glory. Since the time he has taken over, a lot of geopolitical calculations across the globe have changed. Be it more aggressive China in the multilateral institutions, be it the relentless pace of military modernisation or creating a whole bunch of regional institutions to undermine the present global governance structure, Xi has put all his efforts to make sure that his vision to make China great is fulfilled soon.
After 2013 specifically, China’s claims in the South and East China Seas have been on the constant rise. Other claimants to the territory and China’s neighbours have felt threatened by Beijing. This increasing political and military might of China has been a worrying cause for the whole world, especially for the United States. However, seen carefully, it’s not just the other powers who have felt threatened but also domestically, the situation is equally worrisome.
According to a recently leaked report, Yang Huiyan, who is also known as China’s richest lady in the present day, has acquired a ‘golden passport’ in Cyprus by applying to the European Union Citizenship. Since Xi took over, human rights activists or anyone who supports and echoes democracy has been constantly targeted by the government, while suppression of ethnic minorities has become the new normal. Anyone who speaks about human rights or democracy gets targeted by the authorities and is subject to state repression. Journalists from foreign countries have also been facing problems with regard to visas, and there have been instances of them being subjected to detention and expulsion as well.
A recent report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reveals that since 2012, 6,13,000 Chinese nationals have requested asylum from China. The country’s repressive policies have impelled this ‘great exodus’. No citizen is spared, including billionaires, when it comes to the crackdown. Technology giants like Alibaba, Tencent, and Didi are also facing a series of investigations over a range of issues categorised in ‘regulatory’ norms. These include limiting the number of hours allowed for children to play video games, cracking down on celebrity fan culture and limits of Artificial Intelligence Algorithms used by tech giants. These regulations are being introduced to put an anchor on tech giants since their growth and influence in the past 15 years have been dramatic.
In the case of Hong Kong, the situation is even more worrisome. The persistent government crackdown on civil rights has led to never-before-seen levels of migration. More than 93,000 residents left Hong Kong in 2020 alone, whereas the number in 2021 was 23,000. This is considered the highest number of people fleeing away after 2003, when severe acute respiratory syndrome had broken out in the territory.
Amongst the most common reasons for people not wanting to stay in China are harsh crackdowns by the regime, especially in the case of minorities, legal actions against the advocates of free speech, activists and academicians, and not to forget business tycoons and celebrities also. Besides, the punitive measures implanted as part of the Zero Covid policy have also caused tremendous pain and difficulty to the people, especially the middle class. These are considered key reasons responsible for this drastic increase in Chinese citizens’ applications to leave the country.
Apart from the Chinese nationals, foreign citizens have also been leaving China due to the strict government policies in the wake of COVID-19 and the resultant harsh lockdowns. A feeling of anti-West sentiments is also on the rise in China, and it is felt by the foreigners, which is forcing them to escape the country. Data suggests that Shanghai alone witnessed a depletion of almost 20 per cent i.e., from 2,08,000 in 2011 to 1,63,000 in 2021, whereas Beijing saw a reduction of 40 per cent in the last decade when it comes to the number of foreigners or working professionals leaving the country.
The elite in China have the feeling that they can live more comfortably, freely, and at affordable costs in California or countries like Australia. The other reasons that have caused the exodus include primarily the increased pollution levels. It has taken a considerable toll on the health of its citizens. The younger generation has been facing a lot of respiratory problems, which gives their parents the reason to fly to another country for treatment and also, if possible, livelihood.
Overall, it is very evident that since Xi Jinping took over as the President, several alterations have taken place not just externally but domestically too. The increasing anxiety amongst the citizens due to his aggressive policies, high pollution levels, a massive crackdown on civil rights activists and journalists along with suspicions hovering around the wealthy are leading to a mass exodus kind of situation in the present context. Considering and comparing the numbers in the past decade, the scenario is likely to worsen as stringent COVID-19 restrictions have also left no stone unturned.