Welcome to Thailand, land of the Chinese dream

After years of pandemic misery, China‘s social media is alive with talk of Thailand, the land of the Chinese dream. The Chinese people are drawn to what they see as the kingdom’s slower pace of balanced life, and benefits such as cheap international schools. Influencers are painting a picture of a paradise where dreams come true.

Stressed-out parents, according to Aljazeera, can see little beyond cheap international schools and working from home in an exotic locale. Beautiful people sip coffee from porcelain cups, overlooking cobalt seas. Children laugh constructively with their Western teachers. Exotic vegetables are good-naturedly haggled over and paid for through QR codes. For retirees, there are affordable healthcare workers, smiling as they steer you down Walking Street. This truly is the Thailand of my dreams.

We just want them to enjoy life

A Chinese mother appears over footage of an idyllic Finnish school in Phuket, where English is widely spoken and multi-coloured pupils flock from around the world. Not too many Chinese students, but just enough. A Finnish school has little to fear from Phuket’s Chinese occupiers.

Welcome to Thailand, land of the Chinese dream | News by ThaigerThe mother speaks…

“We don’t need our kids to ‘win’ before reaching the finish line. Our kids don’t have to have the highest grades or be the most disciplined. We just want them to enjoy life and be happy.”

From tomorrow, Beijing will resume passport renewals and scrap quarantine on arrival, which has kept all but a small fraction of Chinese citizens from travelling outside the country since early 2020. Tens of millions of Chinese people are expected to book flights for overseas holidays over the coming weeks and months. Though China is pleading poverty, no amount of antigen testing will be able to withstand this tide of raw money. Many are preparing to leave China for good, frustrated by a country that is increasingly expensive, authoritarian, competitive and difficult to raise a family or retire in.

Run away! Run away!

It is unclear how many Chinese people have actually emigrated or are seriously considering it. Social media posts about “run philosophy,” (run xue) have been viewed millions of times.

For those with money, and there are plenty of them, Thailand is attractive and accessible. Property is a fraction of the price of Beijing and Shanghai. The Chinese already rank as the biggest group of foreign buyers of property, with more than 3,500 units snapped up in 2022 at an average of US$150,000 (5 million baht) a piece.

Arom Jomtien - 2 Bed 2 Bath (C4) 📌 Condo for sale in Chonburi | Thailand-Property

More will be arriving and looking for a deal any minute now. In Phuket and Pattaya, Chinese buyers are scooping up more than a quarter of new condos in prime areas.

About 300,000 tourists from China are predicted in the first three months of 2023. Thailand saw 10 million Chinese visitors in 2019, one in four arrivals, then nothing. Thailand’s economy contracted by 6.1% in 2020, one of the steepest declines in the region, followed by a 1.5% expansion in 2021. Since fully reopening in mid-2022, the economy has rebounded strongly.

For the real estate sector, China’s sudden change of attitude has been greeted with relief. Ting Ye, a property manager in Shenzhen who sells real estate in Chon Buri, told Aljazeera

“There are two reasons for Chinese coming here. The first is an investment: they buy condos and houses to rent and resell. The second is for living. Many people are looking to live in Thailand due to its cheap costs and international schools, while some elders are also coming here for retirement.”

The Chinese dream

Thailand may offer an antidote to popular phrases on social media such as “lying flat” and “involution” – relentless hard work for little reward in China’s big cities. Chinese emigrants to Thailand describe a lifestyle that is carefree, even lavish.

In one video, “Cindy” gives a tour of a care home in Chiang Mai that she says has 24-hour nursing on hand and charges just US$1,600 (54,000 baht) per month. Beijing influencer “Alex” espouses a digital-nomad lifestyle in Thailand, the land of the Chinese dream. He describes the joys of a leisurely work life, hopping between cafés at a laid-back pace. Many posts involve mothers swapping stories about the benefits for their children.

We are now Finnway International School Phuket - YouTube

For Sudarat Phakdee, a teacher at One Day in Pattaya, there is little doubt that her small classes suit the personalities of her young pupils from China. Phakdee told Aljazeera…

“They love it here, they seem to be really enjoying themselves because we have a lot of space for them to run around. They seem very relaxed and playful.”

Welcome to Thailand, the Land of the Chinese dream.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.