3. VANISHING RICH PEOPLE
When the going gets tough, the rich head to the airport.
Luxury goods sales, which have been booming in China, began to slow earlier this year. But that doesn't mean that rich Chinese people have stopped spending. They've just stopped spending in China. Late last year, it became apparent that many wealthy Chinese were losing confidence in the domestic market, as they began investing in convertible assets, like foreign currency, rather than in fixed assets, such as real estate. Now they are increasingly looking overseas to invest in high-end property, partly because of domestic restrictions and bargains overseas, but also as a hedge against political and economic uncertainty at home. This dovetails with the revelation in late 2011 that over half of China's millionaires are thinking about skipping the country and setting up permanently abroad.
Chinese prosecutors have said that close to 19,000 officials have been caught in the last 12 years while trying to flee overseas with money earned illegally; they use the term "naked official" for one who has squirreled away an illicit fortune in some overseas bolt-hole, has already safely installed his family there, and is now waiting for the opportune moment to jump China's listing ship. China's wealthy and politically powerful are often members of the same family, and if China really does go into recession, a lot of rich people may decide to cut and run.