Some 508,000 Chinese emigrated to 34 developed countries in 2010, a 45 percent increase from 10 years ago, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Chinese immigration to the United States alone grew from 70,000 permanent residents in 2010 to 87,000 last year.
People leaving the country cite political and social uncertainties brought on by an economy that is accelerating at rocket speed. They see a foreign passport as security against a worst-case scenario.
Professionals account for many of the departed, but members of the working class are leaving too. At the end of 2011, some 800,000 Chinese were working abroad in blue collar jobs such as taxi drivers, farmers or small businessmen, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said. Many of those leaving believe the economy is being increasingly dominated by large corporations.
For middle-class Chinese, sending their children overseas to get a college education represents the first step out of the country. Wang Ruijin, a secretary in Beijing, said she and her husband borrowed money to send their daughter to school in New Zealand, hoping she can stay and provide that foot in the door for them.
"We don't feel that China is suitable for people like us," she said. "To get ahead here you have to be corrupt or have connections. We prefer a stable life."