China has kick-started a key process to frame its first immigration law to better manage immigrants as the world's fastest economy seeks to attract more foreigners to boost its development.
Experts on migration have advised the government to learn from other countries in regulating immigration, said Zhang Jijiao, researcher with the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology under the China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
Zhang said in the era of globalisation, China needed to attract a variety of talents, investors, skilled workers, and in particular "seagulls" -- a Chinese term for foreign merchants who work with multinationals and must travel across the world -- to contribute to its development.
A sounder migration policy would definitely enhance China's appeal, Zhang said.
The Ministry of Public Security, the Beijing Law Society, the Chinese People's Public Security University and the CASS held a liaison meeting last year. But the discussions had yet to result in any concrete preparations, Zhang told state-run Xinhua news agency at a global forum on migration.
Unlike Western countries, which have special laws to regulate the management of transnational migrants, there were few Chinese legal instruments to regulate immigration and foreign investment.
"This reflects how China's transnational migration management has long been focused on the legitimacy of entry and exit out of economic considerations," said Zhang.
He said in the long run it is not enough "as migrants also have other demands that need to be addressed, especially relating to ethnic culture and customs, employment and education."
The first and foremost Western experiences worth noting were the classification of transnational migrants into different categories, such as skilled or unskilled workers, skills migration or investor migration, and then to adopt management rules for each category.
About 2.85 million or more than 10 percent of the 26.11 million foreigners who entered China in 2007 came for employment, according to the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security.
Of the nearly 5.40 lakh foreigners who lived in China for more than six months in 2007, more than half were workers at joint ventures and solely foreign-owned companies or their families.
Although the overall figures have yet to be updated, local statistics have projected a trend of more foreigners staying in China for longer periods, the report said.