China Power

Wealthy Chinese Snatch Up US Investor Visas

Plus, the Taiwan protests, Japan and China trade barbs over Crimea, and a mixed week for China’s internet censors.

Wealthy Chinese Snatch Up US Investor Visas
Credit: US flag and green card image via Shutterstock

China links for your weekend reading:

As CNNMoney reported earlier this week, Chinese investors have established a virtual monopoly on a U.S. visa program that offers green cards in exchange for investment. The EB-5 visa program offers visa to foreigners who commit to investing $500,000 or more and creating at least 10 jobs in the U.S. According to CNNMoney’s analysis of U.S. government documents, Chinese nationals now account for over 80 percent of all EB-5 visas. This represents a rapid rise over the past ten years — in 2004, Chinese citizens only claimed 13 percent of such visas. Last year, almost 6,900 Chinese nationals were granted visas under the program, up from a mere 16 in 2004.

CNNMoney says the U.S. program is especially popular for wealthy Chinese because it is relatively cheap. A similar program in Australia, for example, requires an investment of $4.5 million. The growing popularity of the program has some worried that it will soon hit capacity. The EB-5 program is limited to 10,000 visas a year, including investors and their spouse and children. Currently, 7,000 applications (not including family members) are pending for 2014.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, the historic sit-in protests against the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement continue. Student protestors, claiming they have not received any response from President Ma Ying-jeou, have now called for an additional demonstration to take place in front of the Presidential Office Building on Sunday. For a Taiwanese perspective on what’s at stake, Tea Leaf Nation has translated an essay by Taianwese attorney Richard Chiou-yuan Lu that has gone viral on Facebook. The essay writes, “we’re afraid of you, China,” revealing deep-seated fears that the CSSTA would allow Beijing “to seize our economy by its lifeline.” “If one day our convenience stores and supermarkets become Chinese-owned, the Taiwan Taxi company is renamed Chinese Taiwan Taxi, our bank and credit card records are sent to headquarters in Beijing, and directors of our top hospitals are replaced by Chinese, can we accept that?” Lu wrote.

Analysts have been speculating about the impact of the Crimea incident on East Asian politics. East Asian politicians themselves are now making the parallels explicit, as Voice of America reports. According to, Kyodo News, Shinzo Abe used the example of Crimea to warn about Chinese aggression in the East China Sea. Like Russia, Abe argued, China was attempting to alter the status quo through coercion. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei offered a sharp rebuttal, saying that it was Japan who “illegally snatched” the disputed islands. Abe “tries in vain on the international stage to mislead the public with prevarication and deliberate falsehoods and blacken China’s name,” Hong added.

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Reuters reports that Chinese internet giant Baidu Inc. has successfully won the dismissal of a lawsuit against it. Pro-democracy activists based in New York had charged Baidu with filtering search results that kept Baidu users from viewing their work. Ironically, the judge dismissed the case by saying that Baidu’s own right to free speech justified its actions. “The First Amendment protects Baidu’s right to advocate for systems of government other than democracy (in China or elsewhere) just as surely as it protects plaintiffs’ rights to advocate for democracy,” District Judge Jesse Furman wrote.

While the Baidu court case was a victory for China’s censors, this week brought a backlash of opposition closer to home. South China Morning Post wrote that Chinese netizens are upset over rumors that new regulations will force Western television series to gain government approval before appearing on Chinese video websites. Currently, video hosting sites merely inform the government which shows they are putting up, and the shows are viewable immediately. Analysts say this has created a huge backlog in non-vetted shows as censors simply cannot keep up with the pace of new additions. Western series such as Sherlock and House of Cards have gained enormous followings in China, and netizens would hate to lose access to their favorite TV programs. It’s also worrying for the companies who host such programs—last year, according to Beijing-based iResearch, revenue from online videos grew by over 40 percent, totaling 12.8 billion RMB ($2.06 billion).