Last decade of China’s rapid economic growth has attracted large number of expatriates from various countries. Despite recent slowdown of the economy, China expat population continues to grow, although not as fast as in the past. According to China’s most recent National Census of 2010, the first to record the number of foreign residents, there were at least 600,000 expats living in the country.
Geographic distribution of China expat population
Most foreigners live in Guangdong, the richest Chinese province and the first one to lead Chinese economic development after the country started to open up in the late 70s.
Shanghai has the next largest expat population in China that stood at over 209,000 few years ago. It has most likely doubled since then. Beijing is the third largest population center for expats.
Top nationalities in China expat population
According to China-Briefing, South Koreans form the largest foreign community in China at 21% of the total. Large Korean conglomerates such as Samsung and LG have been setting up manufacturing facilities in China, bringing large number of employees to fill top management and key technical positions.
From non-Asian countries, Americans are the most numerous. Most of them have been posted by multinationals which are mostly in manufacturing, logistics and export business.
According to the research by InterNations, 18% of expats were sent to China by their employers and 17% came “for an adventure”. Although, China ranks quite low at the ease of settling down (not surprising given significant culture and language barriers), it scores near the top at personal finance criteria, despite steadily rising cost of living.
Overall, 76% of expats indicated general satisfaction about living in China and only 1% were extremely unhappy.
Air quality and health issues were among the most pressing concern of foreigners. Incidentally, healthcare has been the main area of dissatisfaction of local Chinese as well.
Most recent country report by InterNation breaks down China expat population in more details: