Disillusioned Chinese citizens have started planning to leave the country

Insight Online News

Beijing, July 20 : Many disillusioned urban Chinese citizens have started planning to leave the country.

Online, “run philosophy”, or “run xue” – a coded way of talking about emigrating – has become a buzzword, local media reported.

On Zhihu, a post explaining the phenomenon has been read more than 9 million times since January.

Elsewhere on Chinese language social media, forums have been set up to exchange tips about how to maximise the chances of being admitted to overseas academic programmes. Immigration agencies reported the number of business inquiries had shot up too over the past few months, The Guardian reported.

When strict lockdowns began to be enforced across many cities in China, including Shanghai, from the start of 2022, doubts and criticisms began to rise. China’s economy was hit hard, and young graduates complained about not being able to find work.

The economy showed signs of rebound in June, but since the more transmissible Omicron subvariant, BA.5, was discovered this month, many have begun to speculate again whether renewed lockdowns in cities such as Shanghai are on the way, The Guardian reported.

It is difficult to know how many of those who pondered leaving did leave in the end. Official emigration figures for this year are not immediately available. According to the United Nations population fund (UNFPA), there was only a total Chinese emigration of 6.9 million over the years from 2000 to 2021. And measured as a share of China’s total population, the UNFPA said, it is “negligible”.

In May, Beijing said it would “strictly limit” unnecessary travel outside the country by Chinese citizens.

Rachel Murphy, a professor of Chinese development and society at Oxford University, said the rise of the run philosophy sits alongside other sentiments that have in recent years become popular in China’s social media.

The popularity of run philosophy, she said, indicated that people want to opt out of a social order that has become hyper-competitive, exhausting and unpredictable, The Guardian reported.

“The recent lockdown in Shanghai also increased the visibility of unchecked party-state power on individuals,” she said. “Yet, the costs of using their voice to try to change things are too high for Chinese citizens. So that leaves them with dreams of exit.”

But Murphy said that this was not to say that these young people were not loyal to China and their nationalistic sentiments were very strong. “Right now, though, some people feel they want to escape the present circumstances of their lives.”


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