Chinese Youth: Charting New Paths Abroad Away from the Domestic Grind


Zhang Chuannan, a 34-year-old former accountant from Shanghai, symbolizes a growing trend among young Chinese individuals. Following the end of China’s “zero-COVID” policies and her job loss in the cosmetics industry, Zhang chose to embark on an international adventure, departing for the idyllic city of Chiang Mai in Thailand.

According to a report published by ABC News, rather than being drawn away due to ideological concerns, Zhang, like many other young Chinese, was driven overseas by the unrelenting pressure of China’s competitive work environment, familial expectations, and the dearth of opportunities amplified by the recent pandemic era.

Southeast Asia, with its relative proximity, affordable living, and scenic beauty, has emerged as a favored destination.

Exploring New Horizons Post-Pandemic

As per the report, while it remains challenging to gauge the exact numbers of young Chinese choosing to move abroad following China’s pandemic policy relaxation, there is an increasing online discourse around the topic.

On Xiaohongshu, a popular Chinese social media platform, hundreds have shared their choices to move to Thailand, many securing education visas and studying Thai while charting out their future paths.

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Institutions like Payap University in Chiang Mai saw approximately 500 Chinese students enroll in online Thai courses at the start of the year.

Additionally, private language schools such as Duke Language School in Bangkok reported an influx of inquiries from young Chinese individuals looking to explore visa options and language courses.

Coping with Economic Pressures at Home

The report noted that China’s burgeoning youth unemployment rate, which peaked at a concerning 21.3% in June, is driving the pursuit of opportunities overseas.

With scarcity of high-quality jobs, the pressures to work extended hours are palpable. Beverly Yuen Thompson, a Sociology professor at Siena College, suggests that the international sojourn serves as a coping mechanism for young Chinese workers witnessing a period of economic decline.

Fulfilling Life Beyond Borders

Life in Chiang Mai for Zhang now begins with the chirping of birds rather than the hustle and bustle of Shanghai.

She now has time to pursue yoga, meditation, vintage clothes shopping, and dancing. Meanwhile, Armonio Liang, originally from Chengdu, found in Bali the freedom to grow his Web3 social media startup away from government constraints.

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Additionally, the cultural shift has also seen an upsurge in his creativity.

Challenges of the Nomadic Lifestyle

Despite the allure of tropical beaches and friendly neighbors, living abroad isn’t all about idyllic scenarios.

It often implies challenging interludes in their lives, as per Thompson. Fulfilling responsibilities towards aging parents or contemplating raising children become significant considerations.

The stories of Huang Wanxiong, a former Guangzhou-based private tutor turned free diver in the Philippines, and Liang’s intention to move his parents to Bali highlight the complexities of this global nomadic lifestyle.

Despite these challenges, they remain hopeful. As Huang succinctly puts it, he seeks to apply the calmness he acquired during his diving sessions to his life, maintaining his pace amidst the pressures and expectations back home.

This resilience and adaptability reflect the spirit of the emerging generation of Chinese global nomads.

Learn more in the entire ABC News report.


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