Foreigners need to account for at least 10 percent of the population before Beijing can call itself an international city, an expert says.
The exit and entry administration of the Beijing municipal public security bureau said the number of foreigners staying in Beijing for longer than six months at the end of October was 110,000.
Among that total, there were 40,000 workers, 30,000 students, 30,000 foreigners who are not on a work or study visa and 10,000 diplomats and their relatives.
The latest data released by the Beijing statistical bureau shows the population of Beijing is 16.5 million, which means the number of foreigners represents 0.6 percent.
Ren Yuan, a professor at the school of social development and public policy of Fudan University, said in international cities like London or New York, foreigners accounted for 30 percent and 15.6 percent of the population respectively.
"If a city wants to be an internationalized metropolis like London or New York, it needs to have foreigners account for at least 10 percent of the population," Ren said.
"An international city means the city is a financial and business center in the international society. The population of foreigners living or working for a long time in such cities can reflect its level of economic activity in the world. So I think the number of foreigners residing in a city is a good index when judging the international level of a city."
Ren said companies should tempt more foreign employees with higher salaries. He said about 36 percent of foreigners were employed in full-time non-diplomatic positions in Beijing, compared to 70-80 percent in cities like London or New York.
"If a city can attract many international companies to set up branches and numerous foreigners to work, it means employees for the international companies will also bring their relatives and children. These foreign families promote real estate sales and international education markets for foreign children," he said.
Ren also said that students account for less than 10 percent of the foreign population in international cities. About 27 percent of Beijing's foreign population is students.
But Ji Zhu, an economics professor at the Beijing Technology and Business University, said the number of foreigners is not the only way to judge a city's international impact.
"Financial and cultural elements should also be included in the judgment," Ji said.
"In addition, London has opened its doors for almost 300 years but it has been just 30 years since Beijing opened up."
Ji said the job market in China would shrink for foreigners as the number of Chinese with excellent English-language and professional skills grew in the coming years.
According to the municipal exit and entry administration, the majority of foreigners in Beijing are from South Korea, followed by the United States, and about one third are aged between 21-30 years. Foreigners are most likely to live in Chaoyang district, where they are numerous restaurants and bars, or Haidian district near the universities.
The rate of foreigners coming to work in Beijing increased in the first six months of this year, as the impact of the global economic crisis deepened in the US and Europe. However, the number of foreign students in Beijing decreased during that same period.
The number of foreigners working in Beijing is unchanged from 2008, and is just 10,000 more than in 2006 and 2007.