Paradise or hell: Is it worth immigrating to America?

Beijinger in New York, a novel by Cao Guilin or Glen Cao adopted into a sensational TV drama 20 years ago, dealt with the questions – “Is America a paradise or hell? To stay or to leave? ”, which were faced by not only the protagonist Wang Qiming, but also millions of immigrants - elite and the average people alike.

Twenty years later, China and the US have undergone profound changes that reshaped the Sino-US relationship. The reforms and opening-up have pulled the Chinese on the near level terms with the Americans economically.

Unlike Wang who holed up in a shabby basement on his arrival in New York, immigrants now splash cash in the American property market, as a common two-bedroom house in downtown Beijing sells to the tune of 6 million yuan, which equals to a luxury villa in Los Angeles.

Compared to the small number of students and stowaways decades ago, now a flood of Chinese move to US every year, some of them even seeking surrogate mothers there.

While China had a meteoric rise in the past 10 years, the Americans have lived through the most dispiriting decade as Time Magazine dubbed 2000-2009 “the Decade from Hell”.

Overnight rags-to-riches stories were heard everywhere in China with people cashing in on treasury bonds, stock market and antiques. On the contrary, Americans sank into doldrums despite a property market upsurge prior to 2007.

But why are the Chinese so obsessed with moving to the US? It is neither paradise nor hell, but only a real world where every individual is entitled equal right to achieve their dream through hard work.  What actually makes America even more alluring to the Chinese is that they are able to breathe fresh air and eat healthy food – which seems to be a luxury in China.

What’s worse, the gap is widening. Nowadays, the Chinese go to America for a better life and a change of environment instead of making a fortune.

Recently, house prices in Beijing soared to 70,000 yuan per square meter and frightening many in the middle class. China has to shift its reform focus from economic development to building a sustainable environment.

Will Chinese immigrants feel unsettled in America due to the cultural barrier? Unlike early immigrants, people are taking root and adapting to the culture. You will feel at home in Chinatown where people dance in the park, shout at each other in conversations and get foot massage.

In short, there is no paradise or hell. The Chinese just see immigrating to the US as a new life in the world.

(The article is translated by Wu Jie.)

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