Pattaya, Thailand – Xiaohongshu, the Chinese answer to Instagram, is abuzz with the benefits of emigrating to Thailand.
In videos on popular social media and e-commerce platforms, influencers paint a picture of paradise that promises something for everyone.
For stressed-out parents, cheap international schools and the ability to work remotely in an unfamiliar locale await. For retirees, there is affordable healthcare just a short distance from the beach.
“We don’t need our kids to ‘win’ before they reach the finish line,” one woman said in Chinese through video of an idyllic Finnish school in Phuket, where English is widely spoken and students come from all over the world.
“Our kids don’t have to have the best grades or the most discipline. We just want them to enjoy life and be happy.”
The rumor of Xiaohongshu, which translates as “Little Red Book”, appeared as China prepared reopen its borders after three years of controlling the world’s harshest pandemic.
From Sunday, Chinese authorities will continue to renew passports and cancel quarantine on arrival, which has prevented all but a small fraction of Chinese citizens from traveling abroad since early 2020.
Tens of millions of Chinese are expected to book flights for overseas holidays in the coming weeks and months.
But others say they are preparing to leave China forever, according to posts on social media platforms such as Xiaohongshu, frustrated with a country they see as increasingly expensive, authoritarian, competitive and difficult to raise a family or retire.
While it’s unclear how many Chinese have actually migrated or are seriously considering it, social media posts discussing a “running philosophy” or “running Xue” are growing. development has been viewed millions of times.
For well-off Chinese, Thailand is an attractive option, reachable by a relatively short flight and packed with real estate for a fraction of what’s on sale. in China’s megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai.
According to the Thailand Real Estate Information Center, the Chinese have been ranked as the largest group of foreigners buying real estate in Thailand, with more than 3,500 apartments purchased in 2022 for an average price of $150,000 each. apartment.
Many are expected to look for a good deal when China’s borders reopen.
In Phuket and Pattaya, brokers say Chinese buyers are accounting for 25-30% of new developments in prime coastal areas.
Xiaohongshu has also become a place for investors to connect.
In a post, Mei Ren, a businesswoman who moved to Bangkok, recounted the advice she received from other users when she was having trouble getting her restaurant in the Thai capital to go up.
“All this hard work is about to pay off with a little help from my foreign friends,” she wrote.
Thai tourism authorities expect to welcome around 300,000 visitors from China in the first three months of 2023 and 5 million during the year, as flights are gradually restored to smaller cities and airports. Flight reopens.
Thailand welcomed 10 million Chinese tourists in 2019, accounting for a quarter of arrivals, before COVID-19 caused unprecedented damage to the global tourism industry.
The kingdom, which relies on tourism for one-fifth of its gross domestic product, is hit particularly hard by the collapse of international tourism. Thailand’s economy shrinks by 6.1% in 2020, one of the steepest declines in the region, followed by 1.5% growth in 2021.
Since Thailand fully reopened its borders in mid-2022, The economy has recovered strong.
For tourism and other sectors that depend on foreign investment such as real estate, China’s sudden turn away from its hardline “no COVID” policy has been mildly welcomed.
“There are two reasons for the Chinese to come here,” Ting Ye, a property manager in Shenzhen who sells properties in Chonburi on Thailand’s east coast, told Al Jazeera.
“The first is investing: they buy apartments and houses to rent out and resell. The second is to make a living. Many people are wanting to live in Thailand due to the low cost and international schools, while some older people are also coming here to retire.”
For some Chinese, Thailand may provide an antidote to frustration encapsulated in popular social media phrases such as “stay still” and “evolve,” describing grief. pain of working hard nonstop for little reward in big cities of China.
On Xiaohongshu, Chinese immigrants to Thailand describe a seemingly carefree, even lavish lifestyle.
In one video, a woman played by Cindy toured a nursing home in the northern city of Chiang Mai that she said has a 24-hour nursing home and costs just $1,600 a month.
In another post, Alex from Beijing describes the joys of leisurely working life commuting between cafes as a digital nomad in the same city, where it is known to a slow and comfortable pace of life.
Many of the posts involved mothers exchanging stories about the benefits of their children growing up in a less hectic atmosphere in Southeast Asia.
For Sudarat Phakdee, a teacher at the One Day Esthetic Arts School in Pattaya, it is certain that the closeness of her small classes influenced the personalities of her younger students from China.
Phakdee told Al Jazeera: “They like it here, they seem to really enjoy it because we have a lot of space for them to run around.
“They seem very relaxed and playful.”