Regional roundup — East Asia: reinvigorated, revived and back on the move

After a period of deep contraction, this famously resilient region is building back better—reinforcing its traditional strengths, and diversifying to meet new demands.

In this edition of Reloverse, we review the different strategies that China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea and deploying in 2023—including plans to import and export talent internationally.

Resurgent and future-ready

East Asia is home to 20% of the planet’s population and some of the world’s most dynamic and enduring economies. Many of the more visible changes of the past two decades have been the skylines of almost every major city. In China alone, there are over 3,000 towers or skyscrapers measuring 150 meters or more—three times that of North America. But this vast volume of new, iconic office and hotel space needs entirely new city infrastructure to function. State-of-the-art heat, light, water and telecommunications networks are essential, where frequent power outages, more simple sanitation and copper-based communications were once the norms. Even bigger challenges arise when local and international workers populate these places—particularly as Asian governments finance most of these capital projects, while their western counterparts rely on the private sector for services. Forecasting future demand for education, healthcare and social services is an inexact science with long lead times and little historic data. Similarly, getting new populations from A to B without choking new cityscapes with congestion is essential for productivity, reduced pollution and the wellbeing of workers. Despite these astonishing complexities and challenges, many developments and entire municipalities are progressing at pace post-COVID. Here’s a roundup of some of the key plans and projects across East Asia that are hot topics for us in the Global Mobility business.

Connected, competitive China

Much of the focus for global talent relocation is on southern China, particularly the Greater Bay Area, which is set to blend the diverse geography and capability of Guangdong’s Pearl River Delta with Hong Kong and Macau. The region has a long history as a strong manufacturing base, supported by Hong Kong’s world-class finance and professional services sector and is increasingly becoming a hub for high-value innovation. It’s an ambitious plan to combine the core competitive advantages of 11 city areas while improving connectivity between them and to worldwide markets.

Municipal model cities

Meanwhile, in the region’s second-largest economy, Japan, there’s a focus on sustainable cities, starting with the capital. Tokyo eSG is being billed as a municipal model for the global community, where the entire city’s energy needs will derive from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydrogen, distributed by an intelligent smart grid. These emerging technologies will be matched by innovation in water and waste management to create a joined-up system of low inputs and outputs. The vision includes extending Tokyo Bay by 1,000 hectares and will see Japan—a country with relatively few natural resources—lead the world of sustainability. It’s expected to attract interest, investment and talent from around the globe as it becomes a showcase for environmental and social governance.

Smart solar

Taiwan is also increasing its focus on forward-looking infrastructure and renewable energy—for its domestic and export markets. Under a detailed development plan, the government is fostering long-term research, development, and installation of solar and wind generation, showcasing green energy technology clusters such as the pioneering Shalun Smart Green Energy Science City. As well as sustainably powering Taiwan, thought leadership and manufacturing capabilities are becoming a significant draw for overseas scientific and supply chain communities as they seek to experience and export innovation and ideas.

Diversifying supply chains

South Korea is also futureproofing its manufacturing mix and mobility with major public works and private enterprise projects. As it overhauls its entire transport infrastructure, it hopes by 2035 over half of all new cars will be fully automated—as intelligent expressways link with metropolitan, mass transit and high-speed railways to eliminate congestion and improve accessibility for the disabled, elderly and those living in more remote regions. From chip production to ocean freight logistics there are also some huge public-private partnerships, particularly around Pyeongtaek, which will become a big draw for many global brands diversifying their reliance on mainland China.

Olivier Jourdan, chief commercial officer at Santa Fe Relocation said “As someone who’s lived and worked in the region, I’ve witnessed a continued change in the way global talent is moving in and out of these maturing economies—notably an emphasis on increased mobility for local people, not simply the traditional expat community. As East Asian brands expand globally, we see highly qualified professionals leaving China and Taiwan to every corner of the world—and a greater number of East Asians who were educated in the west returning to renewed and revitalised societies and economies. A growing middle class with expertise in clean energy, robotics, autonomous vehicles and biomedicine is enjoying global and regional mobility for the first time—and it’s inspiring to see so many talented individuals able to live, work and thrive internationally”.

If you’re interested in a relocation partner that understands the niches, nuances and opportunities of East Asia, we would love to support you and your international teams. Simply drop me an email at

A version of this piece also appears in the March/April edition of IAM’s Portal Magzine (International Association of Movers). Click Here to view.

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