Wealthy Chinese Go on a Global Property-Buying Spree

By Jane Lin
Jane Lin
Jane Lin
November 5, 2013 Updated: November 5, 2013

People in China with money are increasingly emigrating and buying property abroad.

“I just found out at a gathering yesterday with about a dozen friends that everyone except me has either applied for immigration or succeeded in doing so. I was very shocked,” wrote Jia Zhangke, an internationally acclaimed Chinese film director and screenwriter, on his microblog in late October. Jia won best screenplay at Cannes Festival in 2013, and has a bundle of other awards.

Jack Ma, billionaire founder and chairman of Alibaba, an Internet conglomerate, also said in a press conference on Oct. 25 that he will obtain residency in Hong Kong in two years, and that he has been investing in assets in Hong Kong.

There is no shortage of such anecdotes, which are backed up by studies, indicating that China’s elite, and its most wealthy citizens, are engaged in a mass emigration.

The Japanese newspaper Sankei compared the phenomenon to the way animals will scatter before a major earthquake.

According to one of the world’s largest real-estate service firms, CBRE, Chinese companies poured $7.7 billion into commercial and residential buildings overseas in the first three quarters of 2013. That is 46 percent more than in all of 2012, according to the Wall Street Journal.


Hong Kong magnate Li Ka-shing has been dumping assets in China to buy more in Europe.

Chinese conglomerate Fosun International, owned by China’s richest man Guo Guangchang, announced on Oct. 18 the purchase of One Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York for US$725 million.

Chinese real estate developer Zhang Xin and Brazil’s Safra banking group bought a 40 percent stake in New York’s General Motors Building for about $1.4 billion in June.

Another Chinese commercial-property developer Dalian Wanda Group is investing $1 billion to build a luxury hotel in London.

In fact, one in three wealthy Chinese have investments abroad, according to a survey from China Merchants Bank and Bain & Company.


In Australia, 90 percent of the 435 applications for an AU$5 million ($4.74 million) minimum investment visa were taken up by Chinese nationals.

Total inflows of Chinese investment exceed $16 billion a year, according to Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board.

The property market is booming in areas popular with Chinese home buyers in Melbourne and Sydney, major coastal cities in Australia.

The developer of the Highpoint project in the southern Sydney suburb of Hurstville, for example, sold 80 percent of the 320 apartments, almost entirely to Chinese buyers, within four hours on Oct. 12.


In southwestern Europe’s Portugal, around 75 percent of the “golden visas” granted in the past year, which give the right to reside in the country in exchange for a minimum investment, were granted to Chinese, said Vítor Sereno, Portugal’s consul-general in Macao, at a presentation to potential investors on Oct. 10.

Elsa, a real estate agent in the Algarve, Portugal’s premier tourist destination, renowned for its beaches, told Epoch Times that she had sold properties to eight Chinese buyers in just a few months.

United States

In the United States, Chinese institutional investors have poured their money across the country: in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Boston, and Seattle, said a Wall Street Journal report on Oct. 29.

More than half the homes sold to foreign buyers in California go to Chinese nationals, according to CNN Money. Chinese investors’ property hunting in San Francisco climbed 84 percent, month-over-month from July to August 2013, which is 456 percent than it was in January, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to National Association of Realtors’ estimate, Chinese buyers will spend $8.2 billion on American houses this year.


Chinese money has also made its way into neighboring countries. Official data in South Korea show that Chinese had bought $1.25 billion in property in South Korea by March of 2013.

According to data released by Hong Kong’s Immigration Department, Hong Kong has issued 18,622 investment visas in the past 10 years, with 87 percent of them going to Chinese nationals who invested $19 billion in Hong Kong.

Students Studying Abroad

Chinese students studying abroad have also brought wealth along with their talents to foreign countries.

More than 80 percent of China’s super rich send their children abroad for better education, Rupert Hoogewerf, founder of Hurun China Rich List, said on Oct. 11 at an economic forum in China. “Forty-three percent of the children study in the United States and 34 percent in Britain,” he added.

A large number of Chinese students, however, did not go back to China after completing their education. According to state media Xinhua, by the end of 2012, 2.64 million Chinese students had been sent abroad, among them only 1.09 million returned.

As for why Chinese and their money are leaving China, one online commentator seemed to capture the common sentiment: “A friend of mine said he is preparing for immigration after making enough money. Because he can’t understand why the authorities can decide how many kids we can have, what books we shouldn’t read, and what websites we can’t visit. Moreover, safe food is no longer available, the air is too polluted to breathe, we cannot own any land, and our children’s textbooks are filled with lies. Yet we don’t even have the freedom to criticize it at all. Why should we stay here?”

Jane Lin
Jane Lin