Emigration is probably a phenomenon as old as humanity, humans have always had a need for one reason or another to move where the grass is greener. Canada is built on immigration and the oldest Federal government department is that of Immigration. It was created by Prime Minister Sir John A.Macdonald in order to populate this vast new country of Canada in 1873. Populating Canada has always been since 1608 the no.1 task of Royal Governors and various administrators. If one looks at the original 13 colonies of what would become one day the USA, one can see from the beginning a large influx of Europeans, mostly at the beginning Dutch and German with some English in the lot. The first two groups were so prominent in 1776 when the USA was created, German was considered as a possible official language of the new country. Canada was a very different story.
The USA population has always been 10 times greater than that of Canada, and the development of the 13 original colonies was much more robust and faster than that of New France and then after 1763 of Canada as a whole. Even in 1890 the fastest way to travel was often by river transport between major cities and then the train became the main highway to move people and goods. The USA already had a good road system and more infrastructure simply because they had a greater population than us. Per example in 1890 the total population of Canada was about 5 million people, whereas the USA had a population of 63 million people. So it is not difficult to understand why a strong immigration policy was necessary to allow for quick growth of the National Population in Canada.
Since 1873 Canada has been actively seeking and recruiting immigrants to populate the country. At first immigrants were mostly Europeans and this continued until about 1976 when the government of the time decided to focus more on other regions of the globe and focus less and less on Europe. Today the vast majority of immigrants to Canada come from India and China. From India it is mostly from one province alone the Punjab, this explains the visibility of this community and its presence in Parliament and in the current Federal Cabinet. It is a community which has integrated well on the whole and has been successful.
The Chinese started to arrive in large numbers in Canada as 1997 loomed, the return of the British Territory of Hong Kong to Communist China created a panic among the Cantonese speaking population of the British Colony and many thousand chose to come and live on the West Coast of Canada, Vancouver being the destination. In more recent years they in turn have been replaced by economic migrants from mainland China who are Mandarin speaking and seek economic advantages in Canada which they cannot have in China or wish to hide ill gotten loot, Canadian Courts have been busy in the last 20 years with notorious cases which endangered our diplomatic relations with China.
Many up to 40% per year come to Canada as immigrants only to disappear after obtaining Permanent Resident Status, it is believed that they end up in the USA where taxes are less than in Canada and salaries are much higher. This group of Chinese immigrants do not integrate well, living in closed ghettos amongst other Mandarin speaking Chinese, they shun Canadian society or anyone who is not from their Han, Mandarin speaking group. Their main goal is having a base in Canada through ownership of real estate. This in turn has created enormous social problems in British Columbia in and around Vancouver and in greater Toronto area, less so in Montreal, PEI appears to be the next target.
One problem which has alarmed financial circles, the IMF and now the Governor of the Bank of Canada is the unsustainable real estate speculation in many Canadian cities fuelled by the Chinese buyers. The news media has carried reports that in Vancouver alone house prices could appreciate by 75% in 2017 and by 50% in Toronto. This makes no logical sense and shows that speculation is the root of this phenomenon. Another theory which circulates in Financial circles is that China could undermine a national economy with excessive speculation in various markets in the hope of fostering its own dominance. In Latin America and in Africa, China has displaced the USA as an investor. A form of economic war which is not unknown in the long history of China with its neighbours in Asia. Because of this aggressive policy, China has tense and difficult relations with India, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.
The speculative bubble burst in Shanghai 6 years ago after massive speculation by home buyers and the deflation that ensued ruined many. This was due to some Party bosses corrupt practices and lack of regulations within the internal Chinese market.
Canadians also have another serious problem in individual personal debt currently at 167% per person. Yes Canadians are living well beyond their means. Any increase in interest rates which could happen next year could create a crisis here.
Having said this then what fuels the move out of China for so many are the unresolved contradictions the 1949 Communist takeover have not resolved within China and the constant rivalries between urban coastal communities and the vast rural areas of inner China. The revolution was to give the peasant class preeminence in Chinese Society and the Cities were to be marginalized, or so said Communist ideology, that is not what happened. Mao himself an uneducated peasant played the peasant rule all card against other Party bosses and was able to eliminate many of them between 1967-1976. However his luxurious life style and personality cult did nothing to resolve internal social contradictions between city and country.
An article in the New York Times of this past weekend presented the current problem of too rapid growth can create for a country like China and its unwieldy population. One of the main realization of the Communist Party in 1994 was to eradicate for the first time ever famine in Chinese history. The Party has also created consumer wealth with large infrastructure programs in the coastal area of the country benefitting about 500 million Chinese, however in the rest of the country where the other 900 million live, progress has been extremely slow and discontent is ripe. The challenges for the Party is an enormous one and authoritarian response by over using the riot police to quell dissent has not worked well.
The new party leader Xi JinPing is aware that to stay in power the Party has to focus more and more efforts on the vast rural areas and try to offer similar access to education and prosperity. Ten years ago when I was in China the crisis of urban against rural came to a head, this was coupled with the Chinese migrant workers who came to the cities by the millions to work for peanuts so that the urban centres could look more modern or ”Western” with poorly built buildings. The peasant workers are exploited shamelessly by the Chinese entrepreneurs who often forgot to pay them and the Central Government who would not allow them to live in the cities beyond the terms of their work contracts, with a complex system of internal passports and visas to travel between cities, all of it controlled by the Police.
The Party is very anxious that the Western World think of China as a great nation. Vis-a-vis Europe and North America the Communist Party have a huge inferiority complex and a grudge. Official Propaganda called us Bourgeois Imperialist Paper Tigers while Mao was alive, after his death in 1976, the new leadership went on to copy the Capitalist model under Deng Xiao Ping and his program of accelerated consumerism with pseudo Marxist framework. Realizing that Mao’s Policies where about keeping him in power, bringing the death of millions through failed policies 1959-1961 and not advancing China, the Party had to re-invent itself.
Now Xi JinPing is offering more university seats to rural students in big city universities. He has modified the education program to copy the former Imperial Mandarin Education program which educated the elite who worked for the Emperor. Parents of students in cities like Beijing and Shanghai have been protesting this government decision to offer more placements to rural students who often have no chance at entering a prestigious university. They claim that they spent years preparing their children for the University entrance exams and will not allow peasants to take their place. In the countryside schools and universities are sub par and the education level is poor. There is none of the prosperity or affluence you see in cities and coastal areas, this despite years of efforts to bring up standards to those of urban centres. Systemic corruption of Communist Officials has also played its part in delaying progress in rural areas.
For those who can afford it there is always an education abroad in colleges and universities in Canada or the USA. However this is very expensive and not a guarantee of success since many Chinese students return to China to find out that their foreign degrees are rejected by Chinese employers on the basis that it is foreign thus not acceptable. English language skills are also very important in China if you wish to work for one of the big State Enterprises. Again many Chinese students returning from years in Canada or the USA are barely able to speak English, many lived in Chinese ghettos abroad finding it less challenging culturally. Is this new policy of the Chinese Leadership like so many other a cosmetic attempt at solving an old Chinese problem, most probably and it will be said to work through official propaganda and decrees. The other solution of the Party is to make it easy for Chinese citizens to emigrate abroad while remaining loyal to the Party. This explains the constant presence of Senior Chinese Diplomats at any function given by Chinese business groups in Canada. This way the Communist Party reminds all that they may be living abroad but the Party is watching and monitors behaviour.
Despite more than 60 years of Communism and great upheavals, China remains a class society, where Communist Party affiliation, money and family name weighs in on your chance for advancement. It is a dictatorship and a Police State with allures of consumerism, no one should be fooled by this.