China’s millionaire migration 

Over 100,000 Chinese millionaires have moved to Vancouver, sparking everything from a reality show to a property boom making housing unaffordable. Tuesday’s Dateline asks if the millionaire migrants are a blessing or curse.
$151,000 for a diamond necklace? $140,000 for a piano? $15,000 for a handbag?*
This is everyday life for the Ultra Rich Asian Girls of Vancouver, played out in front of millions on reality TV.I remember my first chanel wallet when I was in grade nine or ten,” one of the stars Pam Zhou tells Aaron Thomas on Tuesday’s Dateline. “I don’t see my family as super, super loaded or like super rich, I think we’re just at a point where we’re satisfied.”

The idea for the show came from TV producer Kevin Li and he knows the conspicuous wealth divides opinion.

“There’s a huge range of responses from my show – anything from utter disgust to utter fascination,” he tells Aaron. “The disgusting part is the amount of money that’s being thrown around.”

“People in mainland China hate it… but they love talking about it and they’ll continue to watch it so they can find something they hate about it.”

Pam’s family came to Canada as part of a visa program that welcomed foreigners with a net worth of at least $1.6 million. It’s seen over 100,000 migrants move to Vancouver in the past 30 years.

But their spending has helped see property prices rocket, by 40% last year alone, and now regular wage earners are being priced out of the market.

Vancouver has been named the second most unaffordable city in the world for four of the past five years.

This 1930s house in Vancouver is expected to sell for more than $3 million, but the new owners may just leave it empty as an investment.

“The typical Chinese investment portfolio is half real estate,” Professor David Ley explains, drawing comparison to unaffordability in Sydney and Melbourne. “The population of Chinese Canadians… is projected in 30 years to be 800,000.”

“This isn’t really an issue about race, this is an issue about wealth,” says Australian-born Chinese journalist Ian Young, who’s now based in what he dubs Hongcouver.
“These are not luxury homes, but every one of them is a $3 million house,” he says as he drives Aaron through the suburbs. He’s been closely following the impact of the visa program for millionaire migrants.

“The primary breadwinners who arrived under those schemes… were only paying an average of $1,400 in income tax each year,” he says. “They were declaring less income than refugees in many cases.”

There’s criticism too of them leaving behind their cultural heritage.
The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Canada 160 years ago, but Vancouver’s once thriving Chinatown is now struggling to survive.
Pam admits that she only recently visited for the first time in 13 years.
Chelsea says she feels at home in Vancouver because, like her, it’s caught between being Canadian and Chinese.

Chelsea says she feels at home in Vancouver because, like her, it’s caught between being Canadian and Chinese.

“Time changes, everywhere changes,” another of the girls Chelsea Jiang tells Aaron.
She and Pam both run their own businesses and reject criticism of their lifestyle and wealth.

“Resentment is already out there, but I’m not worried about it,” Chelsea says. “I only need to deal with people who can see the truth.”
“The Chinese brought you great food and a better economy. What’s there to complain about?”
See the full story on Tuesday’s Dateline at 9.30pm on SBS.
Watch Dateline Live

You can live stream Dateline online while the program is being broadcast each Tuesday at 9.30pm AEST.

* All prices in this story are quoted in Canadian Dollars. CA$1.00 = AU$1.06 at the time of writing.

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