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Biao Xiang

The stock of international migrants from China increased from 4.1 million in 1990 to 9.3 million in 2013. China is now the fourth largest source country representing 4 per cent of the world’s migrants in 2013, having moved up from the seventh representing 2.6 percent in 1990. Apart from the numerical increase, Chinese emigration is characterized by a trend of ‘upward concentration’ in emigration – meaning that more wealthy and/or well-educated people are moving to a small number of the most advanced countries in the global north. By contrast, unskilled labour migration has increased much slower, the financial returns of migration remain stagnant and the conditions of migration are uncertain, and thus migrants more vulnerable. This chapter explores how these emigration trends are related to the general developments in China over the last 30 years. The author argues that migration from China is increasingly a means of reinforcing and reproducing social inequality rather than a means of mitigating it.