2008-07-07 00:32:05 GMT 2008-07-07 08:32:05 (Beijing Time) Xinhua English
By Erik Nilsson
BEIJING, July 7 -- The number of expats in China has soared in the lead-up to the Olympics. But with the Games set to begin a month from tomorrow, the question is: Is it true that what goes up must - or at least, in this case, will - come down?
Beijing especially has been buzzing with anticipation of a mass exodus of foreigners after the Games.
But will this mad rush to the airport become a post-Olympic reality?
Lindsay Oliver Klump, who heads talent and organizational consulting analytics for internationally leading human resources firm Hewitt Associates, doesn't believe so.
"The number of expats has been increasing in China over the years, and I suspect this trend will only continue," she says.
By now, most expats in the country have taken note that - in a largely unexpected twist - a flight of foreigners has taken place before, rather than after, the Games, due to a recent tightening of visa restrictions.
Executive director of the German Chamber of Commerce (GCC) in Hong Kong Wolfgang Ehmann says the GCC hasn't researched the impacts of a post-Olympics exodus of foreigners, "since we do not expect any exodus".
But it has surveyed 512 firms about the limiting of multiple-entry visas. Nearly 80 percent of the 46 responders said they believed the restrictions would negatively impact their operations, while more than 40 percent anticipate "an unfavorable impact over the medium and long term".
"In any case, we will have to wait until October, when everyone assumes the normal practice of issuing visas will resume. If this does not happen, then I think we will have to anticipate more people and companies leaving," Ehmann says.
American Noah Binder was "one of the lucky ones" who was able to get a visa extension until the summer of 2009. The 27-year-old plans to teach English and do environmental work in Beijing, and says he would be glad if the number of foreigners dropped off after August.
"As I work as an English tutor, a mass exodus of foreigners can only help me financially," Binder says.
Many expats who have had to leave because of the new visa policy plan to return after the Games, meaning there could be a wave of returnees in the autumn. Guatemalan architect Frisly Colop-Morales says about half the foreigners he knows have had to leave but adds: "They all will come back in October."
Colop-Morales was among those foreigners for whom the Games provided much of the allure for relocating to China.
"The Olympics were the trigger for the Chinese economic boom, which increased the opportunities for people in the architectural field and therefore made China the place to be for architects," says the 29-year-old, who came to Beijing in August 2006.
However, he plans to stick around to witness firsthand the changes of the post-Olympic period.
"I'm looking forward to seeing in which direction the architectural development turns after this period of massive construction," Colop-Morales says.
When Singaporean Kalyani Iyer was awarded a research fellowship last year, she says she could have chosen to use it anywhere in the world.
"I picked Beijing for a number of reasons, but the Olympics was one of them," the 25-year-old says.
However, she plans to stay another year after the Games are over.
If anything, she says she expects an influx of new expats after the Olympics, "who would come here to appreciate the new infrastructure, the new buildings, the new restaurants", built for the Games.
American Julian Herbstein, who came to Beijing four months ago to start his own business, agrees.
He says that the departure of foreigners, most of whom would be directly involved in Olympics-related work, would be a "blip".
"Any exodus of those people would be supplanted with an influx of people who would come after being intrigued by a two-week (showcase) of a China they never knew," Herbstein says.
Irishwoman Elizabeth Boylan, who came to Beijing a year and a half ago, says the Games didn't much influence her decision to come and won't much influence her decision to stay.
However, she has pairs of tickets to the opening and closing ceremonies, three athletic events and two swimming events.
"The catalyst for me was more the economic, intellectual and professional discovery of China," Boylan says.
"However, there was a curiosity about how China would prepare for the event, structurally, socially and politically."
She believes the same holds true for most other expats.
"If there is an exodus, these people (who leave) weren't vested in Beijing culturally, socially and politically," she says.
"Then, they are de facto transients, and their departure is no loss."