Shanghai sees Japanese fall 17% over air pollution, territorial rift

Bloomberg

The number of Japanese citizens residing in Shanghai plunged 17 percent last year, the first decline on record, amid worsening pollution, rising costs and the Senkaku sovereignty clash.

Japanese residents of the Chinese metropolis dropped to about 47,700 as of October, down from 57,458 a year earlier, the local Consulate General of Japan said earlier in the week, based on data from the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

Since comparable data began to be compiled in 1994, Shanghai had been a steady draw for Japanese. In 2011, it overtook New York as host of the second-largest Japanese expatriate community, behind Los Angeles, the data show.

Among other Asian cities, Beijing ranked 17th in 2012, behind Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong, the consulate said. Comparative data for last year will not be available until July.

But Shanghai has lost some of its appeal among foreigners as a place to live. Last year, it was hit by record levels of smog that necessitated a pollution action plan and a pledge to replace coal-fired boilers and furnaces.

For Japanese, the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, which Tokyo controls but Beijing claims, has been a further complication. The acrimonious issue prompted mass anti-Japan protests in cities on the mainland, including Shanghai, in late 2012.

“One reason why numbers are declining is that Japanese being sent by their companies aren’t bringing their families, because of PM2.5 (hazardous air pollutants), bird flu and other factors,” Hitoshi Nakamura, secretary-general of the Shanghai Japanese Commerce & Industry Club, said last month. “Lone Japanese postings without family (members) are rising.”

The number of children attending the city’s two Japanese schools declined to 2,912 as of April, from 3,175 a year earlier, the consulate said.

Yet the number of Japanese firms doing business in Shanghai is growing, Nakamura said. Members of the business group rose to 2,464 in April from 2,390 in December 2012.