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Sanya Journal: Welcome to China’s Florida: Sun, Sand and Retired Snowbirds

December 8, 2017

“Retired life is better than we could have ever imagined,” said Sheng Shengmin, 67, a retired building contractor from Beijing.

Last year, Mr. Sheng joined the wave of snowbirds who have laid down roots here, buying an apartment in the city for the equivalent of $272,000. After years of living in Beijing, Mr. Sheng said, “the pollution, the migrant workers, and the cold” had made the capital city uninhabitable.

“Once you retire and you’ve saved up enough money, you don’t want to go back to living in the big cities,” Mr. Sheng said as he took a sip from his tea thermos, a common accessory for many older Chinese.

That so many Chinese retirees would leave behind their homes to live in an unfamiliar city is all the more remarkable given China’s tradition of filial piety. For generations, children in China have grown up with the expectation that they would one day care for their aging parents.

But there are growing concerns that responsibility may be too much for the generation of only children produced by the “one-child” policy to handle on their own. As a result, more empty nesters in China are adopting the snowbird lifestyle with the aim of easing the burden on their children.

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“Right now, it’s fine because we’re healthy,” said Zhao Kaile, 62, a retired railway bureau administrator and a native of Mudanjiang in northeastern China. “But twenty years from now, will we be able to take care of ourselves without our children? Everybody is thinking about this problem now.”

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