Two decades of China’s economic boom has created tremendous wealth, but fear of wealth loss has led a significant portion of it has flown into foreign countries. Today, hundreds of millions of Chinese superrich seek safe investment havens overseas, creating a foreign diaspora that extends from South East Asia to North America, and generating a large investment outflow in the amount of trillions of dollars.
Such amount of wealth should have brought them tremendous economic and political power overseas, allowing them to control the economic and political fate in the foreign countries. But in fact, their considerable wealth often evokes unwanted attention and jealousy. Throughout history, the wealth of overseas Chinese has put them at the centre of angry storms from coast to coast, and left them at the target of foreign government crackdowns.
In the recent years, a large amount of Chinese money has flooded into Vancouver and Toronto housing markets. According to MacLean’s, Chinese buyers reportedly shelled out nearly $12 billion on real estate in Vancouver in 2015, accounting for 33 per cent of the city’s housing sales. But these investments have left Chinese investors at the receiving end of an angry outburst that accuses them of having contributed to the inflation of property values and caused affordability housing crisis in the B.C. cities.
Amid a strong resentment in the local community that recently reached a fever pitch, the B.C. government took a move to tax on the foreign buyers – mostly Chinese, requesting them to pay 15 percent property transfer tax.
According to Sean ReHaag, associate prof at Osgood Hall law school, the legislation that attacks Chinese nationals is unlawful as it applied exclusively to a group defined by citizenship -- one of the prohibited grounds under the Canadian Charter of Rights. The legislation is part of a long unfortunate tradition of discrimination against Chinese, says Rehagge, and closely parallels the infamous head tax law in history that restricted Chinese involvement in the Canadian economy.
In Malaysia, wealthy Chinese has become main source of dissatisfaction for ethnic Malays. As the majority of the Malaysia’s richest are of Chinese descent, and the average monthly gross income for the Chinese is much higher than that of any ethnic groups, right-wing groups often complain about a Chinese take-over of the country’s economy, and encourage ethnic Malays to unite under the idea of Malay pre-eminence to fight against the Chinese domination.
The Chinese wealthy suffered even more devastating plight in Indonesia back in 1990s, when a social unrest erupted that killed hundreds of thousands of ethnic Chinese and destroyed their shops, homes and families. In spite of their economic contribution to Indonesia for three decades, where Chinese had a significant large share of the country’s GDP, Indonesian authorities failed to provide security and protection to the vulnerable Chinese, leaving them at the mercy of the unruly mob.
Apparently, the economic wealth of overseas Chinese does not give rise to their political power or social status. Their wealth has put them in the crosshair of envy and scorn, leaving them sporadically being discriminated against and victimized in their foreign countries. Their financial status often become a bane, instead of boon, and a curse instead of blessing.
As Vancouver housing controversy escalates, Chinese foreign investors wonder why they are the focus of anger over a housing market where many Canadians realized sale prices beyond their wildest dreams. But the new tax law in B.C. gives an undeniable indication that their wealth is not welcome in Canada, a country that touts the best multicultural society in the world.
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