BEIJING - Zhou Qun, who moved to Germany eight years ago, has every reason to distance herself from the stereotypical Chinese immigrant.
First, the 28-year-old Chinese woman does not relate a story about working long hours in a restaurant. She owns a company that makes millions of dollars every year by selling stylish clothes to local German chain stores.
Second, though she has the permanent right to reside in Germany, Zhou said she would like to spend more time in China.
"Life here is quite comfortable since Germany has better welfare provisions, but our families and friends are mostly in China," said Zhou, who often travels between the two countries.
Like Zhou, many rich Chinese now see immigration as a path to a better future without having to bid farewell to their homeland.
Going out rich
China used to supply the world with destitute workers, but sociologists say the trend is changing, with more wealthy, well-educated Chinese buying departure tickets.
According to its Department of Homeland Security, the United States approved the settlement of 1,971 investment immigrants from the Chinese mainland in 2009.
Obtaining a US visa for immigrant investors requires at least $500,000 or more than 3.4 million yuan. Years ago, this amount would have been daunting for most Chinese.
But since 2003, the booming domestic economy has enriched many entrepreneurs and made investment immigration more affordable, said Qi Lixin, chairman of the Beijing Entry & Exit Service Association.
In Wenzhou city, where brisk export trade is conducted from the port in East China's Zhejiang province, business-savvy entrepreneurs are flocking overseas for market expansion, said Chen Yongcong, head of Wenzhou Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.
"Many have gained permanent residency in foreign countries in order to enjoy more privileges in their business," said Chen.
Aside from entrepreneurs, some rich Chinese citizens are also emigrating for a cleaner environment, safer food and free medical service in developed countries.
In spite of their vigorous pursuit of foreign residency, most of the immigration investors have not abandoned their roots in China.
"Most of our clients are middle-aged entrepreneurs who are usually reluctant to give up the career and network they've built up in China," said a consultant with a Guangzhou-based immigration agency.
"And given their age, they often find it difficult to assimilate into the mainstream society of foreign countries," he said.
The consultant described such immigrants as "migratory birds", as they travel to and from China and their chosen country of residence.
"So long as China keeps up its pace of development, it will not lose its relevance to these outbound Chinese," said Yu Jianrong, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
To Chen Yongcong, whose job is to contact Chinese immigrants across the globe, the major concern was the choice of their children.
While aging Chinese immigrants are more likely to return home, their children, who identify less with China, may choose differently.
"Second-generation immigrants are fiercely sought after by foreign countries, as they are the heirs apparent to huge wealth," said Chen, who added the focus of their work had shifted to educating the immigrants' children on their Chinese heritage.