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Sick of drudgery, wealthy Chinese seek a slower pace in Thailand | Business and economy

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Pattaya, Thailand – Xiaohongshu, China’s answer to Instagram, is buzzing with the benefits of emigrating to Thailand.

In videos on the popular social media and e-commerce platform, influencers paint a picture of heaven that promises something for everyone.

For stressed parents, cheap international schools and the chance to work remotely in an exotic location await. For retirees, there is affordable health care just steps from the beach.

“We don’t need our children to ‘win’ before they reach the finish line,” a woman says in Chinese, over footage of an idyllic Finnish school in Phuket, where English is widely spoken and where students come from all over the world.

Our children do not need to have the best grades or be the most disciplined. We just want them to enjoy life and be happy.

The buzz about Xiaohongshu, which translates to “Little Red Book,” comes as China braces for reopen its borders after three years of the toughest pandemic controls in the world.

Chinese authorities will resume passport renewal and quarantine on arrival from Sunday, which has prevented all but a small fraction of Chinese citizens from traveling outside the country since the start of 2020.

Tens of millions of Chinese are expected to book flights for overseas vacations in the coming weeks and months.

But others say they are preparing to leave China for good, according to posts on social media platforms such as Xiaohongshu, frustrated with a country they say is increasingly expensive, authoritarian, competitive. and difficult to raise a family or retire.

While it’s unclear how many Chinese have actually emigrated or are seriously considering doing so, social media posts discussing a “running philosophy”, or “run xue”, have been seen by million times.

For affluent Chinese, Thailand is an attractive choice, accessible via a relatively short flight and packed with properties available at a fraction of the price of what’s on offer in Chinese megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

The Chinese already rank as the largest group of foreign property buyers in Thailand, according to the Thai Property Information Center, with more than 3,500 units purchased in 2022 at an average of $150,000 each.

Others are expected to come in search of a bargain as China’s borders reopen.

In Phuket and Pattaya, real estate agents say Chinese buyers are snapping up 25-30% of new apartments under development in prime beachfront areas.

Chinese travelers
China set to reopen borders after three years of tough pandemic restrictions [Andy Wong/AP]

Xiaohongshu has also become a place where investors can connect.

In one post, Mei Ren, a businesswoman who moved to Bangkok, recounted advice she received from other users as she struggled to get her restaurant started in the Thai capital.

“All this hard work is about to pay off with a little help from my overseas friends,” she wrote.

Thai tourism authorities expect around 300,000 visitors from China in the first three months of 2023 and five million over the year as flights are gradually restored to smaller towns and airports reopen.

Thailand welcomed 10 million Chinese visitors in 2019, or one in four arrivals, before COVID-19 inflicted unprecedented damage on the global travel industry.

The kingdom, which depends on tourism for up to a fifth of its gross domestic product, has been hit particularly hard by the collapse of international travel. Thailand’s economy contracted 6.1% in 2020, one of the steepest declines in the region, followed by an expansion of 1.5% in 2021.

Since Thailand fully reopened its borders in mid-2022, the the economy rebounded strongly.

For tourism and other sectors that rely on foreign investment such as real estate, China’s sudden reversal from its strict “zero-COVID” policy has been greeted with relief.

“There are two reasons why the Chinese come here,” Ting Ye, a property manager in Shenzhen who sells property in Chonburi on Thailand’s east coast, told Al Jazeera.

“The first is investment: they buy condos and houses to rent and resell. The second is for living. Many people seek to live in Thailand due to its cheap costs and international schools, while some seniors also come here for their retirement.

For some Chinese, Thailand may offer an antidote to the frustrations encapsulated in popular social media phrases like “lying flat” and “involution,” which describe the pains of hard work for little reward in big cities. Chinese.

On Xiaohongshu, Chinese emigrants in Thailand describe a way of life that appears carefree, even sumptuous.

In one video, a woman passing by Cindy walks around a nursing home for the elderly in the northern city of Chiang Mai, which she says has 24-hour nursing care and does not charge only $1,600 a month.

Man dressed in white shorts, rolled up to the elbows, and black shorts sits on a beanbag holding a drink with a straw in his hands.
Chinese influencers like Alex are promoting the benefits of the digital nomad lifestyle in Thailand [Xiaohongshu]

In another, Alex from Beijing describes the joys of a leisurely working life spent hopping between cafes as a digital nomad in the same city, which is known for its laid-back, slow pace of life.

Many posts involve mothers swapping stories about the benefits their children have of growing up in the less frenetic atmosphere of Southeast Asia.

For Sudarat Phakdee, a teacher at the One Day Esthetic art school in Pattaya, there is no doubt that the intimacy of her small classes rubs off on the personality of her young students from China.

“They love it here, they seem to be really having fun because we have a lot of space for them to run around,” Phakdee told Al Jazeera.

“They seem very relaxed and playful.”

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