When the sister of President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, promoted investment in her family's new skyscraper from a Beijing hotel ballroom stage earlier this month, she was pitching a controversial American visa program that's proven irresistible to tens of thousands of Chinese. More than 100,000 Chinese have poured at least $24 billion in the last decade into "golden visa" programs across the world that offer residence in exchange for investment, an AP analysis has found. Nowhere is Chinese demand greater than in the United States, which has taken in at least $7.7 billion and issued more than 40,000 visas to Chinese investors and their families in the past decade, the AP found.
The flood of investors reflects how China's rise has catapulted tens of millions of families into the middle class. But at the same time, it shows how these families are increasingly becoming restless as cities remain choked by smog, home prices multiply, and schools impose ever-greater pressure on children. They also feel insecure about being able to protect their property and savings. The "golden visa" industry is murky, loosely regulated, and sometimes fraud-ridden: In the US, federal regulators have linked the EB-5 visa program to fraud cases involving more than $1 billion in investment in the last four years. Despite criticism from Congress, Trump signed a spending bill that included a renewal of the program through September. Click for the rest of the AP's look at the history of the program and the current calls for more oversight. (Read more China stories.)