China embraces increasing foreign residents

China has seen an increasing number of foreign residents while continuing to open up in the past decade, the latest population census shows.

A total of 845,697 foreigners were living on the Chinese mainland in 2020 when the seventh national census was conducted, up about 250,000 from a decade ago.

Around 402,000 of them are male, according to the report of the once-in-a-decade survey, which was published on Tuesday by the National Bureau of Statistics.

China started to track the population of foreigners in the sixth national census in 2010 and found 593,832 foreigners working and studying on the mainland.

Duan Chengrong, a demographic researcher in Beijing, said the inclusion of foreigners in China's national census had followed an increase in the number of foreign nationals in the new century.

Duan, vice-dean of the Center for Population and Development at Renmin University of China, said the increase in the number of foreigners over the past decade is a telltale sign of the sustained expansion of population of foreigners on the mainland as the country continues to open up. He said the number could have been more if the COVID-19 pandemic had not occurred.

Census workers made home visits to collect data nationwide from October and December, when the outbreak was largely under control in China. But epidemic prevention and control measures had barred normal international passenger flow.

The latest census counted about 1.43 million overseas residents-a group comprising foreigners as well as people from the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and the Chinese province of Taiwan-on the mainland by November.

The coastal province of Guangdong has the largest number of overseas residents at about 418,000, followed by Yunnan province and Shanghai.

Shanghai has a total of about 164,000 overseas residents, according to the census. The city authority said that 18 percent of the foreign residents working in Shanghai are deemed as high-end talent from overseas, and both the number and quality of foreign talent introduced to Shanghai were ranked first in the country.

As the first city on the Chinese mainland dedicated to encouraging the establishment of regional headquarters of multinational companies, Shanghai is now home to 767 regional headquarters of multinational companies and 479 research and development centers. The city also leads in the introduction of visa policies to attract and retain international talent to work and set up business in the city.

However, the census data also shows that the number of Taiwan residents on the mainland was less than a decade ago.

Cheng Po-yu, vice-president of the Taiwan Youth Council Beijing Association for Taiwan Enterprises, said that is partly because Taiwan businesses operating on the mainland are becoming more inclined to hire local workers, which led to a decline in the number of workers deployed from Taiwan.

"The labor force on the mainland is getting increasingly skilled in recent years, and more professional and efficient," he said.

Cheng noted that a growing number of young people from Taiwan have come to the mainland for education and started micro-businesses in recent years.

Cao Chen contributed to this story.

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