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Despite the looming trade war, nearly 80% of high net worth Chinese pick America as their top destination for emigration, according to the Visas Consulting Hurun Chinese Immigration Index 2018. Hurun interviewed 224 Chinese citizens between March and June this year.

For the fourth consecutive year, the United States came out as the most desirable destination, scoring 8.7 points out 10. Experts put this down to the attraction of the American education system.

The US, which trumped Britain, Ireland, Canada and Australia, also ranked first for visa-free entry and the ease of adaptability among Chinese.

Not surprisingly, the American taxation system, with recent tax breaks granted to the wealthy, was also attractive to rich Chinese.

Respondents to the survey, who have an average net worth of 29 million yuan (US$4.37 million), were questioned on their emigration preferences. The survey allowed them to choose more than one destination.

37% of the respondents said they had considered emigrating, down 10 percentage points from a year ago. About 12% said they have already applied for emigration, or already emigrated to other countries.

Education is the No.1 reason for emigration, followed by environmental concerns, which are understandable given the awful air pollution suffered in first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

The major driving force behind the desire for overseas immigration and investment according to the Hurun survey, are stricter foreign exchange controls and restrictions on buying properties in first-tier cities.

Chinese immigrants are the third-largest foreign-born group in the United States, after Mexicans and Indians, according to the Migration Policy Institute. In 2016, there were 2.3 million Chinese in America, making up about 5% of the total immigrant population of 44 million.

Hurun chairman and chief researcher Rupert Hoogewerf said the United States is absolutely the top choice for high net worth Chinese. However, interestingly, 90% of the people who consider immigration would also consider returning to China.

Read: US firms in the crosshairs of any trade war: state newspaper

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