Chinese hoping ticket out of China is French class

By Louise Watt

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 19 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

"There is a growing demand for immigration to French-speaking countries and especially Quebec," said Laurent Croset, managing director of Alliance Francaise in China.

The number of lesson hours sold across China from October 2010 to September 2011 increased by 14 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. It's an "enormous" rise, Croset said.

Many of those who want to leave are middle-class professionals who own a larger-than-average apartment in Beijing or Shanghai and earn more than an annual 200,000 yuan ($32,000), according to Zhao of the Beijing immigration consultancy.

"Of all those who want or plan to emigrate, 80 percent want their children to get a better education," she said.

Chinese were the biggest group of immigrants to Canada from 2001 to 2009, although they fell to third place in 2010 behind people from the Philippines and India, even as the numbers of Chinese rose.

In 2010-2011, China became the number one source for immigrants to Australia as numbers of new Chinese migrants rose to just under 30,000. In the U.S., Chinese were behind only Mexicans in being granted lawful permanent residence in the three years to 2010, the latest year for which data is available.

The exodus highlights how many Chinese see a better future abroad.

While China's policies have lifted millions out of poverty over the last two decades, the authoritarian government tightly controls many aspects of daily life. China's leaders punish dissent and any perceived challenges to their power, and censor what can be read online and in print. They limit most families to one child.

A test-centric education system hinders innovation. Many parents want to send their children to study abroad but are not able to afford it unless they emigrate.

Meanwhile, single-party rule has failed to stop a growing rich-poor divide or address problems of pollution and contaminated food.

Even the sister of Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to become China's next president, lives in Canada, according to a Wikileaks-released U.S. diplomatic cable that cites a former close friend of Xi's.

Yin, who is studying French in polluted Tianjin and who teaches Chinese at a middle school, hopes to eventually study for a master's degree once she successfully settles in Canada.

"I have relatives and friends who succeeded in emigrating to Canada so that's what inspired me to move there," she said. "I think what attracted me to Canada is its environment, including the air and food safety, and also the welfare system and education. Education for the next generation."

Sean Farrell in Montreal contributed to this report.

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