Young Urban Chinese on the Move

by Raksha Arora, Business and Economy Editor

France, Singapore, Australia top travel wish list

While millions of rural Chinese have migrated to urban China seeking higher incomes and better standards of living, it appears that young urban Chinese are the most mobile demographic. According to the recent Gallup Poll of China, 37% of urban Chinese 18- to 29-year-olds report they have moved from another community or place within the past three years, compared with 18% of urban Chinese 30 and older. However, younger adults in any society tend to be more "footloose," so this effect may simply be a function of age more generally rather than a tendency specific to Chinese culture.

Young Chinese do have aspirations for world travel, and clearly have destinations in mind. About three-fourths of urban 18- to 29-year-olds would like to visit France (75%), Singapore (74%), and Australia (73%). The least popular travel destination that Gallup tested is Russia, which less than half (45%) of young urban Chinese say they'd like to visit. Also lower on the list are Taiwan (53%) and Thailand (52%).

Young urban Chinese are more likely than older urban Chinese to have moved around within China, but they are no more likely to have traveled abroad. Just 7% of young urban Chinese say they have been abroad. Among urban Chinese 30 and older, 11% have traveled abroad. It's worth noting that past travel to Hong Kong or Macau may fit respondents' notion of travel "abroad" -- even though both of these territories have now been repatriated to China -- and this may factor into these overall percentages.

Gallup gauged Chinese exposure to foreign cultures by asking respondents if they have ever known a foreigner either as a friend or colleague, met a foreigner, or at the very least seen a foreign face. Nearly the entire young urban group -- 99% -- has seen a foreigner, as have 95% of urban Chinese aged 30 and older. Nineteen percent of urban 18- to 29-year-olds and 12% of those 30 and older have had a foreign friend or colleague.

But the youngest urban Chinese adults do differ markedly from older urban adults in their likelihood to have met with or spoken to a foreigner. Fifty-five percent of urban 18- to 29-year-olds have done so, compared with just 26% of those in the 30 and older category.

Bottom Line

Like their older counterparts, most young urban Chinese haven't traveled abroad. But members of this Chinese youth movement are mobile, and have had more exposure to foreigners than their older counterparts. Given their eagerness to travel and China's rapid integration into the global economy, there's every reason to believe young urban Chinese will become worldlier as they age.

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