Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Blueprint allays concerns about safety of assets

By Bai Ping (China Daily) Updated: 2013-11-16 07:35

What did private business owners want most from the all-important political conference that was held last week to decide the future course for the nation?

When I pondered this issue, I thought about Lao Zhang, a successful, rich businessman, who I met more than 10 years ago. He had emigrated to an English-speaking country but lamented the misery of his life there.

"I don't have any friends and I don't speak the language. When I look out of the window at the busy street from my condominium in a high-rise building, I keep asking myself what I'm doing there," said Lao Zhang, who was in his 50s then. What had kept him from going insane, he said, was the consolation that he was now safe with his wealth. "I used to think my money was really not mine in China. I could easily become penniless because it could be taken away from me anytime."

Paranoid it might sound, but such a sense of insecurity resonates with millionaires in China, many of whom have emigrated in recent years amid unprecedented economic prosperity. Instances of fleecing and extortion by corrupt officials and widespread resentment against the rich have precipitated the wealth drain.

Blueprint allays concerns about safety of assets


wealthy Chinese are looking for a better life in Western countries through investment immigration. [Photo / China Daily]
According to a report by China Merchants Bank and Bain & Company, among those mainland business owners who possess more than 100 million yuan ($16.3 million), 27 percent have already emigrated, while another 47 percent are considering leaving. Another report conducted by the Bank of China and wealth researcher Hurun Report found more than half of China's millionaires are either considering emigrating or are already in the process of doing so.

When asked about their reasons for emigrating, most rich people would say they are leaving because they want a better education for their children, and they are worried about worsening pollution and food safety. But as they will most likely return after they obtain a foreign green card or passport, anxieties over personal and capital safety seem to be more important motivations.

During a summer forum where some Chinese business tycoons floated their wish list for the conference of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, Ren Zhiqiang, a real estate magnate with a large social media following, said such fears were common among top businesspeople and he called for clear assurances on the protection of private property and individual rights, or people will continue to leave after they make enough money.

It seems the top decision-makers have heard them. Among a slew of pro-business decisions, the conference that ended in Beijing on Tuesday stressed that the development of the non-public sector will be encouraged, which will "stimulate vitality and creativity in the whole economy". It promises the property rights protection system will be improved and State-owned enterprises will adhere to modern corporate practices, supporting the healthy development of the private sector.

For those who worry about their security, the leaders have also pledged to strengthen the rule of law to safeguard the rights and legitimate interests of the people by endeavors "to uphold the constitution and laws, deepen reforms in administrative law enforcement and ensure independence and fairness in prosecuting bodies and courts, as well as to improve judicial practice and protection of human rights".

It might still be too early to say the private business community has got all its wishes, as the details of the decisions remain to be fleshed out in the coming days or weeks. But the outcome of the meeting should come as a shot in the arm for private business owners who sorely need direction in a declining economic environment.

Perhaps fewer rich people will, like Lao Zhang, pack up their money and leave because they fear something bad will happen to them for no reason.

The writer is editor-at-large of China Daily.


(China Daily 11/16/2013 page5)

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