Diego Laje and Corinna Liu, CNN, July 19, 2012
Aspiring Hong Kong musician Annabelle Cheng wants to be in America.
“I think (Hong Kong) is a city that can be defined by business,” said Cheng, who recently graduated from Baptist University in Hong Kong with a degree in religion and philosophy. “But the cost of living in a dynamic city is that you don’t have your personal space.”
Living conditions in this crowded and hectic enclave are part of the reason Cheng wants to relocate to the U.S. “I really need that amount of time and space to think, to meditate, to get inspiration,” said Cheng, who plans to save and apply for a post-graduate music program in the U.S. in two years.
Cheng isn’t alone. Despite the rising fortunes of Asia, the Pew Center released a report last month that shows Asians have surpassed Latinos as the largest group of immigrants to the United States.
And university is often a gateway to residency: around half of Asian immigrants have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 13% of Hispanics, according to the report.
China leads overseas applications to American university graduate programs, followed by India and South Korea, according to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools.
One entrepreneur who moved his family to Los Angeles said that he moved to give his children better educational opportunities. “China is not the best place to raise kids,” said the 40-year-old man, who wants to remain anonymous so as not to jeopardize his business and family in China.
As for himself, he left China feeling insecure in a society where government has the final say in everything. “Individuals should be protected by laws and everyone’s commitment to obey laws,” the entrepreneur said. “Everyone minds their own business here. Very few people like to judge others.”
It’s a common reason for China’s wealthy class to emigrate, he said. About half the Chinese millionaires polled last year said they are thinking of emigrating, with North America the top destination, according to a November Hurun Research Institute and Bank of China report.